The imminent arrival of 2019 put me in a sentimental mood, and so I began to reminisce on the year that was. As batshit crazy as 2018 has been from a geopolitical perspective, skimming through the 7,400-plus photos I took this year (almost exactly one thousand more than I snapped in 2017) reminded me how fortunate I am and how much I have to be thankful for on a personal level.
On a professional level, this stroll down memory lane also reminded me that I had a pretty amazing work experience at the very start of the year.
I’m incredibly lucky in that I periodically have the opportunity to represent the efforts of my Nike teammates at product launch events organized by our remarkable brand and communications teams. These events can vary dramatically in scale based on the scope of the story we have to tell—from small briefing sessions with a handful of participants up through auditorium filling affairs. This past January, Nike Running took the latter route to launch our first line-up of shoes to feature the new Nike React cushioning platform. The events took place in Asia, Europe and North America, and I was offered the privilege to lead the launch presentations in Asia—specifically, in Seoul, South Korea and Shanghai, China.
No matter how many of these things I get to take part in, they never cease to amaze. Our brand and comms teams somehow manage to consistently top themselves, securing incredible venues and transforming them in record time into site-specific experiential installations. As a presenter, I pretty much get to just show up and be made to look brilliant thanks to the efforts of this army of people who do all of the actual work but get none of the shine.
Aside from presenting our new products, a key responsibility at these confabs is participation in one-on-one interviews with members of the media. Some find this task onerous, but, perhaps because I know what it’s like to be on the other side of the microphone from my days running Kicksology.net, I actually enjoy these sessions. I can tell you from direct experience that it’s a lot easier to be the interview-ee than it is to be the interview-er.
Sure, I have to make certain to remember my key talking points and find ways to work them into the conversation without seeming like I’m just regurgitating talking points. But that definitely beats stressing out over whether or not I remembered to charge the batteries in the recorder; or have enough storage space on the camera; or asked all of the question I meant to ask, all while actively listening so that I can ask effective follow-up questions. Just thinking about those days ties my stomach up in knots. Much respect to those working the media beat, which is far more complicated today than those quaint days of yore when simply maintaining a blog was considered cutting edge!
Speaking of blogs, of these interviews, my favorites are always with the sneaker bloggers—or perhaps the term “blogger” is passé, given that few these days actually publish blogs, with most instead focusing on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or Weibo? I guess it’s more correct to simply say that my favorite interviews are with the true sneakerheads. No disrespect intended towards the mass market media folks, but, given that their audiences are, by design, very broad, they tend to ask very broad questions (“What was the ‘aha’ moment?” is a staple). The sneakerheads, on the other hand, really want to know about the nitty-gritty of the development process and, as a product geek, that’s the sort of stuff I love to talk about.
I was happy to see that the Nike React launch events in both Seoul and Shanghai included quite a few sneakerheads. I wish I could remember the names of all of the wonderful people I met, but two interactions do stand out in my memory. The first is an interview I did in Seoul with Ryan Wolff from TEMPO, which, at that time, was a very new, running-focused publication based out of Melbourne, Australia. TEMPO is geared towards serious runners, but I think it’s fairly unique in that the team behind it recognize that there’s a cultural component to the sport that’s at least as important as the performance side. Ryan was also very clearly a sneakerhead, and it was fun to talk to someone who was as interested in how our Nike React products fit into the broader sneaker culture as he was in their performance bona fides.
Then, in Shanghai, I had a great conversation with the team from ULSUM. They were genuinely interested to learn more about the products we were launching and, not only how we arrived at our ultimate solutions, but why we arrived at those solutions. Perhaps due to the pressure to be the first to publish, a lot of outlets don’t go beyond asking about the surface attributes of our products, so it was refreshing to have an opportunity to dig into the why behind the what. ULSUM recorded our interview and have since published it to their YouTube channel, and I’ve embedded that video below. If you view through to the end, you’ll notice that I managed to sneak some watch-talk into the conversation as well!
Those are just two memories from a year that was more eventful than most. Honestly, I would have sworn that these Nike React events took place in 2017, as way more than the typical twelve months worth of stuff has happened over the past year. As exciting and edifying as 2018 was, here’s to hoping that 2019 is a few degrees less turbulent and tumultuous—more late-period Roger Federer than peak Andre Agassi. 2019: The ball is now in your court!