Nike has appointed Nicole Hubbard Graham as chief marketing officer, effective Jan. 2, according to a news release. The executive succeeds Dirk-Jan “DJ” van Hameren, who plans to retire next summer. Van Hameren, a former Olympic cyclist, has served as Nike’s marketing chief since 2018 and has been at the company for 31 years.
Graham previously worked at the sportswear giant for nearly two decades but departed in 2021 to help found the creative ad agency Adopt. In her past Nike stint, the executive held roles managing the brand’s global marketing teams and its direct-to-consumer business.
Adopt, whose website lists brand partners including The North Face, Gatorade and Netflix, is focused on the intersection of sports and culture, carrying over themes from Nike. As Nike’s CMO, Graham is tasked with “aligning the company’s brand voice against its next era of growth” and overseeing all aspects of marketing, the release said.
Van Hameren was at Nike’s marketing helm for some of its most impactful and controversial output in recent years, including a “Just Do It” campaign with activist and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The marketer also contended with internal turmoil, including reported pushback from Black employees over a lack of diversity. The issue flared up following the release of a 2020 ad featuring Kaepernick, Serena Williams and LeBron James that arrived following mass protests for racial justice across the U.S. Nike under van Hameren’s tenure also ramped up overtures to Gen Z in the gaming arena, experimenting in virtual sandboxes such as Fortnite and Roblox.
Fresh marketing leadership is part of a larger executive shuffle at Nike, one of several this year. John Hoke, another company veteran, is moving from the chief design officer role to become chief innovation officer, partnering with Tom Clarke, Nike’s president of innovation. Martin Lotti, who’s been with Nike for 26 years, will take over as design chief. Muge Erdirik Dogan is joining the firm from Amazon as chief technology officer, reporting to CEO and President John Donahoe. Hoke, Lotti and Graham will report to Heidi O’Neill, president of consumer, product and brand.
In May, Nike named a new president for its Jordan brand and head of North America operations, along with promoting O’Neill to her current position and making other executive adjustments. Ongoing tweaks to its leadership structure come as Nike contends with stiffer competition and faces inflationary pressures that have led consumers to cut back on spending ahead of the key holiday period. The company missed analyst expectations on revenue for the first time in two years in its fiscal first quarter, while sales dropped nearly 2% in North America, its largest market by revenue.