Nike announced early this March the launch of its first line of performance hijabs called Nike Pro Hijab for female Muslim athletes. Nike becomes the first major sportswear brand to apply its sports performance technology into making hijabs and bring it to Muslim consumer markets. This is a strong statement by Nike which is offering solutions to the Muslim world instead of ostracizing it. Nike’s Pro Hijab is expected to cost $35, is made to be lightweight, stretchy and comfortable. The Nike Pro Hijab has been designed and tested by figure skater Zahra Lari and weight lifter Amna Al Haddad, but it won’t hit the market until 2018. This is a smart move by Nike because it allows them to move deeper into the Muslim markets around the world which are projected to be worth more than $5 trillion dollars by the end of 2020. For Nike this signals not only the opportunity to tap into and penetrate a lucrative market but also to make a bold statement about inclusiveness and diversity. Nike understands the value of the Global Muslim market and is targeting it with Ads like the one below.
What is a Hijab?
Hijab is an Arabic word meaning barrier or partition. In Islam the most visible form of hijab is the head covering that many Muslim women wear. Hijabs are also frequently refereed to as head scarfs or veils. The hijab is controversial because some people see it as a symbol of female suppression while others see it as part of their identity and a way to show they are proud to be Muslim.
Search Interest on Google
Searches for “Hijab” have increased in the last few years.
Regular Hijab Searches
Global Hijab Searches / Interest
What Makes The Nike Pro Hijab Special
While similar products have existed from smaller lesser known brands, for many Muslim athletes around the world, Nike’s Pro Hijab represents a form of acceptance and expression of freedom that they too can compete in sports without the compromise of their faith and identity. For the Nike brand, this will naturally help to embolden the image of the brand in Muslim markets. A critical step as it expands and open up new stores in the middle east. Creating an image of the brand that understands the consumer needs and builds products that help/feed the consumer demands.
Consumers Empathy and Inclusion Helps Build Brands
Brands like Tom’s shoes have proven that acting on empathy can help drive business success because it allows people to feel like they are helping others in need with their purchases. Toms made popular the buy one give one model to help “a person in need” with every purchase of one of their products. Other brands tap into the need for inclusion by running advertising that say they are inclusive and were built on diversity and struggle. Pushing inclusive messaging is one thing but what Nike did with the Pro Hijab is rare. As a brand they took action to include and empathize with Muslim athletes who live in current climate that is everything but inclusive to them. The French PM wants to band hijab’s in universities, the President of the United States of America is pushing for travel ban targeting Muslims and Muslims in most of the world are being sadly misunderstood.
The Public’s Response to the Pro Hijab
Since the announcement of the product, social channels and news outlets are a buzz. Searches for “nike hijab” spiked around the world, most notably in Indonesia which has the largest population of Muslims globally; possibly pointing towards a strong interest in the product.
Nike Pro Hijab Google Trend Searches
However as mentioned above the hijabs are controversial so Nike launching a hijab will automatically toss the brand into the midst of this sensitive subject. Some people are bashing Nike for this on social media but it’s important to understand what Amna wanted to help Nike do. Read her Instagram statement below.
“With the Nike Pro Hijab Launch, I do realize there is a lot of mixed reactions as to why Nike decided to create such a product “now.” __ From my perspective as a former athlete who competed in Hijab, in the past, the big brands didn’t see the need or market for it as it was not “popular” and it was unheard of to see women train, exercise and compete in hijab. __ It is a recent phenomenon where more women have expressed a need for it and more professional athletes have fought for rights to compete with a headscarf, and have an equal playing field. We made it big in the news, we couldn’t be ignored. __ As Muslim women, we have been vocal in the media about it – personally since 2011 – the big guys can’t help but notice us “the underdogs” and our impact in the sports industry and world. They know that we are here to stay and decided to join the party and create another “competitive” sport hijab in the market, which by the way, did exist in the market for few years now. __ As an innovative company, they will create products and they will meet market needs – whatever they may be. It is not dismissing any other hard work done in the past to develop sports hijabs, it’s just there is more competition in the market for modest clothing now. __ I support Muslim women with or without hijab, and how they dress is their choice. And with the Nike Sports Hijab, it surely will encourage a new generation of athletes to pursue sports professionally, and without us athletes who fought for this right and made it happen, Nike wouldn’t “just do it.” __ Ps. This is purely my opinion on the matter, not paid for or asked to be written. Much Love,” -Amna
Nike is a global brand and has the responsibility to service the needs of their customers all over the world. The Muslim consumer has a need for performance sports apparel that meets their cultural and religious guidelines. For the Nike organization (and their competitors), this means the opportunity to create new lines of products, new sponsorship opportunities and new avenues to position the brand in growing Muslim economies.