A Designer At Heart, CEO Mark Parker Helps Nike Hit It Out Of The Park

Mark Parker
Nike CEO Mark Parker.

A designer by heart, Nike Inc. CEO Mark Parker has helped the Beaverton, Ore. sports footwear, apparel and equipment company post stellar financials by not only encouraging continuous product innovation, but also by volunteering his own successful design ideas.

Parker in 1979 joined Nike as one of its first footwear designers, after running competitively at Penn State University. Since then, he’s brought innovative concepts and engineering expertise to a number of roles over the past three decades, including as vice president of consumer product marketing, vice president of global footwear and co-president of the Nike brand.

In 2006 Parker was appointed CEO, and the success of Nike in recent years can be traced to that date, according to Walter Loeb, Forbes contributor and head of Loeb Associates Inc. Since Parker assumed the top post and led the way for Nike Air and a multitude of industry-breakthroughs in product design, Nike’s profits have increased 57 percent and the company’s market capitalization has more than doubled.

Parker became Nike’s chairman in 2016, and the company now has sales of over $32 billion. By 2020, the leader hopes to boost sales to $50 billion in part by zeroing in on 40 retail partners to create a more personalized brand experience for customers. Because of his impressive track record and continued ambitious goals, Loeb considers Parker to be Retail Person Of The Year.

The Business of Fashion writes that Parker has “successfully appealed to the street style generation” with products like Nike’s Free Runs, Air Max and Fly Knit product lines. Fast Company named Parker the World’s Most Creative Chief Executive in 2012. In 2015, he was named Fortune’s Business Person of the Year, calling him a “master craftsman.”

Indeed, Park still continues to make his mark on design, as one of three members of HTM, a three-person design collaboration, alongside designer Tinker Hatfield and creative consultant Hiroshi Fujiwara, that functions as Nike’s core R&D team. Since launching in 2002, the trio has launched over 30 limited-edition shoes.

Parker tells The Wall Street Journal that when designing products, “it’s all about the athlete.”

“You have to keep them in mind all the time, and that means helping them actually be in a better position to realize their potential,” the CEO tells the WSJ. “That is really what we do. That is sort of the governor.”

In addition to helping lead the continued growth of the Nike brand, Parker is responsible for the growth of Nike Inc.’s global business portfolio, which includes Converse Inc. and Hurley International LLC.

He’s No. 86 on Chief Executive and RHR International’s CEO1000 Tracker, a ranking of the top 1,000 public/private companies.

Mark Parker, Chairman, President and CEO

Headquarters: Beaverton, OR

No. of Employees: 70,700

Date became CEO: 2006

Age: 62

Undergraduate Degree: Penn State University

Company Start Date: 1979

Years at Company: 39

First Position: Footwear designer, Nike Research & Design

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert
Katie Kuehner-Hebert has more than two decades of experience writing about corporate, financial and industry-specific issues. She is based in Running Springs, Calif.

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