Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Year with Nike

For my chapter I choose "My Year with Nike: A Story of Corporate Sponsorship, and Ethics in Public Schools" by Rachel Cloues.  I chose this chapter because I previously worked as a senior scientist for a major corporation.  While working in this job I was one of the patent holders on a major product that can still be found on the shelves in every Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid in the entire country.  While working on the R&D team for this product I had the opportunity to interface with the marketing department while they were developing names and branding for the product.  I was fascinated by the time, money and effort that they put into coming up with the brands.  We often "grabbed" groups of people for focus groups.

Also while working with this company I was instrumental in implementing their public outreach program.  To give themselves a caring giving but science forward image they came up with the "Making Science Make Sense" program where their scientists were involved with schools and science education across the country.   The even hired "celebrities," space shuttle astronaut Mae Jemison and TV Personality David Heil, to make public appearances and push the program.  It was very interesting for me to see how the public relations and marketing minds of a major corporation work.  I still look at products and companies through this lens.

In this chapter Rachel tells about the year she was teaching 4 th grade in Beaverton, OR, Nike's hometown, where her school chose to participate in a program offered by Nike.  As part of this program, Nike would help the school meet the state's physical education standards, the students would have 4 field trips to the Nike campus, and Nike would give the school money for P.E. equipment.  Although Rachel wasn't thrilled with the program in light of Nike's use of sweatshops and poor conditions abroad, she went along with her school on the program.

Nike supplied the students with Nike T-shirts for their first trip.  The trip contained a lot of ironic moments such as the students going from a nutrition class to an auditorium where they were all given cans of soda.  The children sat for an hour in the auditorium watching new Nike commericals while all of the teachers were brought to the auditorium for a nice lunch.  After the first trip the teachers complained about the soda and commercial watching and these were not done again.

On subsequent field trips the children got to experience rock climbing, hip hop dancing, yoga, tennis and other sports.  Rachel thought it was a great opportunity for the students and they got wonderful attention from the Nike employees.  The children got goodie bags of Nike branded items after each trip.  Rachael thought they were "being indocrinated into corporate culture."  Rachel tried to counterblance the Nike trips with activities in class such as doing graphing activities about where the class' sneakers were made.

In conclusion Rachel states that with limited school budgets, partnerships like the one between her school and Nike are becoming more frequent, but the school and teachers should have some say into what goes on.  Planning and dialogue between the teachers and the companies, before the events take place, are a must.  Rachel's experience closely mirrors my experience with Bayer and the "Making Science Make Sense" program except that I was on the corporate side.

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