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Trek and Nike to end partnership at year’s end

By Matt Pacocha

After a seven-year partnership, Nike and Trek will part ways at the end of 2007. The decision, a result of the $15 billion sports giant’s new exclusive focus on high-end cycling shoes and apparel, sparked rumors that Nike is abandoning the sport altogether.

Since 1999, Trek has been a Nike licensee and the primary distributor for Nike Cycling, the marketing of which had centered on seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. Nike recently downsized its in-house cycling division. However, the Nike-Trek split doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the Nike’s cycling division, said Maggie Mahler, Nike’s media manager.

“At this point we’re definitely looking to continue to explore options to deliver Nike Cycling products to the marketplace,” said Mahler, who emphasized the company’s support of its pro athletes through the Beijing Olympics. “We haven’t made any decisions, we’re still looking into opportunities past 2008. As of right now that’s the information that we have — we’re still looking into opportunities beyond 2008.”

The Nike-Trek split resulted from differing marketing strategies. Nike intends to focuses solely on the high-end; Trek wants a full line of apparel and footwear.

“We would like to reach more than just the elite athletes,” said Tricia Burke, Trek’s brand manager for Nike. “The road that they’re going down is their athletes and teams and sponsorship. They’re applying their focus in those areas. We had a mutual agreement to terminate our relationship. It’s a perfectly amicable parting.”

Nike joined forces with Trek after Armstrong’s first Tour win in 1999.

“We’re making a decision to shift the focus, but we’re still dedicated to the sport of cycling,” said Nike’s Mahler.

What shape that dedication takes beyond 2008, however, remains to be seen.

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