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Nike is why America is great

Here’s a list of countries that are looking awesome this morning:


Yes, yesterday was mostly horrible. The Dow (^DJI) fell 260 points, the Nasdaq (^IXIC) dropped nearly 2% and it threatened to rain on national Derek Jeter day. That sort of made sense. This has been a rough few weeks for our national psyche. It’s not good for morale to have our issues with rage and domestic violence trotted out on the global stage while Chinese Internet giants come public on our exchanges.

We were in a funk. For that matter we may still be in one. Yesterday’s sell-off only stopped because the bell rang and traders went home. There wasn’t really a wash-out. Heaven knows we aren’t any closer to reconciling the conflict between idolizing youth and athleticism and our human desire to reward people with a moral compass that points them away from hitting their wives or children.

But yesterday afternoon a company named for the Greek Goddess of Victory reported a quarter that was a wonkish thing of beauty. A 40-year old American company with a business model based largely on exploiting cheap foreign labor (really, you can look it up) destroyed estimates and guided higher for both the current quarter and full year.

The stock is up 5% and that’s great but the beauty of Nike’s (NKE) report was the way it’s kicking butt. Nike is winning on a global, comprehensive, old and new school basis. Shoes were up 18%. Women’s apparel is soaring. E-commerce was up 70-freaking-percent. What’s really great about that is that Nike didn’t just go online. They’ve been there for years and they still pulled off a 70% quarter.

In the Nike conference call CEO Mark Parker even gave a shout-out to Nike+. Remember those goofy wrist things people wore last year? Turns out Nike+ has been downloaded 17 million times. It’s a small but organic “thing” to check out your friend’s workouts online. There’s even a woman in Manhattan who’s achieved some small degree of internet fame by tracing out running paths in the shape of naughty pictures through midtown Manhattan.

Don’t underestimate the importance of that second part. I bring it up not just because it’s a salacious story but because it shows how this aging running shoe company is still appealing to customers on a global basis through every kind of marketing you can imagine. Nike’s World Cup ads were Pixar-quality short movies but you expect that from a corporate giant. What you don’t expect is for that same company to be cranking out stuff with organic appeal to running wonks looking to spice up their nightly 5-mile jog.

Nike is a one-company explanation of America. It shouldn’t work but it does. We don’t like everything about it but taken as a whole and considered as a full body of work you have to respect the inspiration and execution on display. Nike is why we’re capitalists. Nike is beautiful and inspiring and it’s beating the crud out of those stupid enough to bet against it.

After a month of being reminded how ugly we can be as a culture Nike’s quarter was a reminder of why we don’t just give up and go French. Nike is beautiful.

So… Great quarter, folks.

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