Fashion, sports and business intersect in incredibly dynamic and interesting ways, according to Nike marketing executive Ricky Schramm (COL ‘07, MBA ’12), who participated in a Zoom conference webinar on Tuesday.
Hosted by the Georgetown Retail & Luxury Association and moderated by Professor Jimmy Lynn, “GRLA Presents: Nike in the Digital World” offered business and fashion-inclined Georgetown University students the opportunity to learn firsthand from a marketing representative at one of the nation’s most powerful companies.
Nike as a brand has been significant across Georgetown’s athletic history, Lynn said. John Thompson, who coached the Georgetown men’s basketball team from 1972-99, secured a historically significant Nike sponsorship for the up-and-coming Hoyas. Georgetown was key in merging culture and sports by having a hand in popularizing Nike due to the success of its players in marketing, according to Lynn.
“After all, we’re the number one school for sports execs,” Lynn said.
“I grew up with Nike in the ’80s and ’90s, and I idolized some of our key athletes. That is where my relationship with the brand began,” Lynn said, citing Michael Jordan and Andre Agassi as the athletes he admired.
The culture of cultivating and empowering athletes signed to Nike is something that is notable to Schramm, as the partnerships the brand has with its athletes is not just sponsorship but also access to coaching, mentoring and networking. This allows Nike to give a voice to the athletes they support, according to Schramm.
“Back in the day, and still today, Nike was founded on being in service to athletes, positioning them to be better,” said Schramm.
The prominence of power and influence within their athletes impacts their business decision-making, according to Schramm.
“We’re working with local influencers on a day-to-day basis,” Schramm said. “We have about 20 athletes, such as Lebron James or Serena Williams, that have truly global influence. The meaning of celebrity is changing.”
Nowadays, marketing tends to operate on a more micro level, showing the evolution of marketing in terms of what it means to be a social influencer, according to Schramm.
Nike also makes a point to target high school athletes across social media platforms, namely the video sharing app TikTok, which sees immense popularity among teenagers. This inventive use of social media allows for Nike to better target who they are trying to reach and where their audiences get their news from, said Schramm while wrapping up.
Gaia Pipitone (SFS ’20), who is on the operations team of GRLA, said their first webinar was successful, and they hope to host more webinars in the future. According to Pipitone, planning the webinars are also relatively easier as they do not require speakers to be on-campus for these events. This event was supported by the undergraduate office, as well as the Global Business Initiative.
Schramm studied English in his undergraduate years at Georgetown, serving as the captain of the men’s soccer team, and was drafted by D.C. United of Major League Soccer after graduation.
He ultimately decided to go back to Georgetown to get his MBA at the McDonough School of Business to concentrate on marketing, citing that this gut instinct told him to enter the field.
“I’m from New York, so everyone that I was born and raised around went into finance or law, and Georgetown was always this way with a lot of people being from the Northeast,” Schramm said. “I thought maybe eventually Wall Street would have me in sales and trade. … I was kidding myself. By no means could I even spell equity.”
Schramm talked about the paths that can be taken to work at Nike. He emphasized the importance of securing a 10-week internship at Nike’s campus in Oregon, even though it’s not a prerequisite, said Schramm. Professor Lynn also stressed leveraging LinkedIn to students’ advantage, especially given the strong alumni network for Georgetown.
“Princeton grads want to help Princeton students, Stanford grads want to help Stanford students and Georgetown grads want to help Georgetown students,” Lynn said.
Schramm encouraged every Georgetown student who aspires to a job like his, the conjunction of sports culture and fashion, to have a specific passion and pursue it.
“There is no typical day working at Nike,” said Schramm.