CHICAGO, United States -- Yesterday, US First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated the 3-year anniversary of ‘Let’s Move,’ her campaign to fight childhood obesity. She was joined by Mark Parker, president and CEO of Nike, who announced that the sportswear giant was committing $50 million to Mrs. Obama’s cause, to be spent on a multi-pronged effort to bring physical activity back to American schools over the next five years.
According to childhood obesity expert Dr. Shazhan Amed of the British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, only one in three American children is active on a daily basis, an alarming fact considering that lack of exercise is one of the key contributors to childhood obesity, which, in turn, can lead to serious medical conditions, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. As a result, for the first time ever, today’s children may live shorter lives than their parents.
But lack of physical movement doesn’t affect individual health alone. Nike’s vice president and general manager for access to sport, Lisa MacCallum, told BoF that the “inactivity epidemic” costs the American economy $147 billion a year, stemming from medical costs, decreased productivity, and other direct and indirect factors. “This issue is one of the biggest,” she said.
In an effort to tackle the problem, Mrs. Obama, Nike and a number of other organisations are joining forces to re-integrate physical activity into children’s lives -- before, during, and after school.
“Partnerships between the private and public sector are critical to making a meaningful impact. We all have a role to play and by coming together, across sectors, we demonstrate a coordinated, collaborative and united effort to achieve a healthier generation of children,” said Dr. Amed, citing improved mental health, better sleep and increased learning ability as key benefits of physical activity, in addition to weight management and disease prevention.
No doubt the new initiative is a natural fit for the Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike, no stranger to corporate social responsibility and community engagement programs, and the company can expect to earn a fair amount of goodwill and positive PR from the pledge, as well as the invaluable association with the popular First Lady.
In supporting the cause to bring physical activity back to schools, Nike is also aligning its brand with the kind of larger mission that can, ultimately, create resonance with consumers. Indeed, great marketers like Nike and Apple have always understood the power of communicating, not just what the company does (products) or how they do it (process), but why they do it -- the underlying belief or mission that drives them and attracts consumers to believe in the brand.
“This is who we are, this is in our DNA, this is what we care about,” said MacCallum.
And, of course, by promoting increased physical activity, Nike will also be growing overall demand for athletic shoes and apparel, a nice bonus.
To learn more about the movement to bring physical activity back to schools visit letsmoveschools.org
Full disclosure: Dr. Shazhan Amed is the sister of Imran Amed, BoF’s founder.