By Thomas J Ryan

Phil Knight may have retired from Nike, but his successor, President, Chairman and CEO Mark Parker told investors at the company’s annual meeting September 22 that the brand will continue Knight’s “obsession with serving the athlete.”

In today’s world, Parker said that translates to Nike “ushering in the new era of personalized performance, allowing us to serve the consumer completely both on and off the field.” The shift is most evident in the new Nike+ app, which Parker described as an “all access app to your potential.” The app works with Nike Digital, Nike+Run, Nike Training Club, and NikeID. Added Parker, “It all creates a single home for your entire athletic life.”

Parker also called out the new Apple Watch Nike+, which stated that Nike will continue to invest in digital platforms “that fuel authentic connections with consumers” while noting that the goal led to a series of partnerships to push innovation with Flex to modernize footwear manufacturing, with HP 3D customization and with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for sustainability.

Parker stressed that Knight’s vision will continue to drive Nike’s culture. “As he evolves into his next role within Nike, Phil remains the voice that inspires us all. There’s no better way to honor his transition than by accelerating our mission of bringing innovation and inspiration to every athlete.”

“Building on a strong fiscal 2016, I’m incredibly excited about what’s in store for fiscal 2017 and beyond,”added Parker. After his tribute, Knight added, “I would echo that I don’t think Nike’s future has ever been brighter, and I’m really looking forward to the next few years with great confidence.”

In June, Knight, 78, officially stepped down as chairman of the board. Parker, who replaced Knight, spent much of his presentation discussing how Nike’s focus on innovation and meeting athletes’ needs continues to drive Nike’s success. “Innovation has never been more important to us. At this time of relentless change, the state of play has never been more dynamic around the world. Healthy living is becoming a priority, sport is now a part of everyday lifestyle and sneaker culture is booming,” he said. At the same time, retail is “at the early stages of unprecedented transformation,” driven by mobile, digital connections and more demands for a personalized experience.

Parker said success continues to start “first and foremost with groundbreaking product” highlighting the HyperAdapt 1.0, the LunarEpic, the Free RN Motion, and the Air VaporMax. He also noted that innovations continue to be guided by the insights and inspiration of its athletes such as LeBron James, Serena Williams and Cristiano Ronaldo. At the Rio Olympics, Nike Athletes took home more than 190 medals. Said Parker, “If we were a country, Nike would have finished first in the medal count.”

Parker recounted that despite challenges around currency fluctuations, resource constraints and geo-political situations, the company had a strong fiscal 2016. On a currency-neutral basis, five out of its six geographies grew double-digits, marked by a 27 percent gain in Greater China and a 14 percent gain in Western Europe. North America, its largest region, delivered a “strong” 8 percent increase. Sales exceeded $32 billion, EPS grew 17 percent and return on invested capital reached 29.7 percent.

Priorities for the current year include expanding its core categories of running and basketball, developing “inspirational sportswear uniforms” for men and women, expanding the Jordan brand across multiple categories and investing in women and youth. Many investments in the past year, he added, have “set the foundation for growth across every dimension of our business. And that’s why I’m confident that we’re on our way to a goal of $50 billion in revenue by 2020.”

At the meeting, winning approval from shareholders were all nominees from the company’s board, changes to compensation for certain executives and amendments to stock purchase plans. A shareholder resolution pushing for more disclosure over political contributions was not approved.

Asked how Knight plans to stay involved with Nike in retirement he said, “Nike is by far the most significant thing I’ve ever done in my professional career, it’s part of my blood and it will never leave me. So, I’ll be here as needed.”

Photo courtesy Nike