In a well orchestrated press conference at the SIA trade show in Las Vegas, Nike announced that it has signed a three-year agreement with Switch Manufacturing, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vans, Inc., to sell and license the Autolock snowboard step-in binding technology. Nike has agreed to utilize the Switch system as its exclusive step-in binding system for its new line of snowboard boots that it plans to introduce next year through its ACG division for the winter 2000/2001 season.
Nike will continue to produce conventional boots and bindings, as well as apparel. The timing of the announcement renewed Nike’s commitment to snowboarding in many people’s eyes, especially after the company announced several weeks ago that it wasn’t moving forward with the previously announce snowboard program.
Nike ACG Hardgoods Manager Brian Stewart made the formal announcement to a crowd of 40 journalists and related industry people, and invited Switch President Erik Anderson to join him on the stage to answer questions about the new relationship. The event also featured a brief product line presentation, question and answer period with Nike sponsored snowboarders Barrett Christy, Rob Kingwill, and Julie Zell, and a video of the three athletes riding and talking about snowboarding.
In a related press release announcement, Gary H. Schoenfeld, Vans’ president and chief executive officer said, “We welcome Nike as our latest licensed partner for the Switch Autolock step-in binding technology. Four years ago when Vans introduced its first line of snowboard boots, we believed that Switch had the best step-in system world-wide. As we furthered our relationship and recognized the migration of the sport to step-in technology, we decided it would be a prudent strategic move to align ourselves more closely, which led to our acquisition of Switch last July.”
“We are extremely gratified that Nike has selected our Switch step-in system as the most dependable and best riding system in the market,” said Schoenfeld. “We believe that our acquisition of Switch, coupled with this transaction, has further strengthened our position in snowboarding, which continues to be a rapidly growing sport and a strong influence on the lifestyles of our target consumers.”
In Nike’s press release version, Nike ACG President Gordon McFadden said, “Partnering with Switch will enable us to develop the highest quality performance products for snowboarders. We feel as though it will enable us to create the types of versatile products that will meet the demands of today’s quickly changing snowboard athlete profile. We set out looking for a seasoned company that shared both our commitment to working with athletes and our common goal of pushing the technology to the next level. – Switch quickly emerged as the clear choice.”
Joining the company of Vans and Northwave, this alliance also marks a gigantic step towards driving the industry further towards an innovative and needed boot to binding interface standard. This joining of two respective industry leaders promises to benefit riders, retailers and the sport of snowboarding as a whole.
Switch also looks at this partnership as an opportunity to collaborate with a company known as a leader in sport innovation and to drive compatibility in the step-in binding market overall.
“We are looking forward to working together with ACG to develop some great new and exciting product concepts,” says Erik Anderson, president of Switch Bindings.
The combination of Switch’s success and breadth of experience in the binding market and ACG’s strong heritage in performance-enhancing footwear is a promising match. Many of the details on the products to be produced and specific feature information will be released at a later date.
“As we did with our binding and boot business, we plan to take our time and do this right,” continued McFadden. “Our ultimate goal with this partnership is to deliver, exciting, athlete inspired, pperformance enhancing snowboard boots and bindings at an incredible value for the rider. If we can do this, I know we will improve the sport of snowboarding and that is what this is all about.”