Nike was well represented during L’ATTITUDE 2022 this past weekend in San Diego, CA. Along with John Donahoe, Nike President and CEO, and Blanca Gonzalez, Nike VP of North America Product Merchandising, in attendance, the event welcomed Vanessa Garcia-Brito, Nike VP of NA Communications, to the stage.
Garcia-Brito hosted the panel Expanding the Footprint of Wellness: Building a Culture of Belonging & Inclusivity on Saturday (Sep. 23). The company saw it as the perfect time to highlight some of the steps Nike has taken in creating a diverse and inclusive sports culture for the athletes it serves.
“When you talk about the Latino community [and Nike], we’re soulmates and ‘sole mates,’” Garcia-Brito told Remezcla during an interview at the event. “[Latinos] are super passionate about sports. We have a lot of values that align with who [Nike] is as a brand. Getting involved with the Latino community is a business imperative.”
This year, Nike celebrated its 50th anniversary. Garcia-Brito, who is Honduran and Argentinian, said that as the company looks toward the next 50 years, it is constantly thinking about how it will serve the Latine community not only as a brand but also as an employer. “When we think about our employees, we think about retention, development, recruitment, and growth,” she said. “We’re making sure that we’re listening and that the voices of [our employees] are brought in.”
Like all companies, Nike is not perfect. Garcia-Brito discussed what is important to them when they realize they have missed the mark in the past. This includes when the company had to cancel the release of its Air Force 1 “Puerto Rico” limited-edition sneakers in 2019 and 2020 following backlash for its designs.
“We’re never done learning and trying,” Garcia-Brito said. “The feedback is super important to us. We are listening. We may not always get it right, but we’re always going to want to get it right. I think there is something to be said about that.”
Garcia-Brito also referenced the Serena Williams Design Crew as an example. A speaker on her panel, Chantel Sanchez — now a full-time designer at Nike — spoke about how she landed her current job. “I’m an example of when diversity meets opportunity,” she said to preface her story. Sanchez shared her experiences growing up in Kansas, coming from an immigrant background, and struggling to find her footing in the design world. That changed when she was invited to apply to be part of the second cohort of the Serena Williams Design Crew — which she ultimately got.
In her closing remarks, Sanchez noted, “I hope that my story inspires other young Latinos to pursue a path in the creative industries.” Her latest work at Nike was being part of the design team behind Megan Rapinoe’s capsule collection. “I’m hopeful for the next apprentices that are gonna come into our family soon,” she said.
Moreover, during the fireside chat with Donahoe on Sep. 23, he presented Nike’s annual La Familia collection sneakers in lieu of Our Heritage Month. He said this year’s collection “celebrates diversity of personality within family.” Donahoe pointed out the aspects of the shoe that “don’t usually go together,” relating it to how families usually include different people and perspectives, but at the end of the day, come together over their special bond.