In this episode of the SLN Podcast, our friend Dave Larson, the CMO of Sweet Onion Consulting, speaks with his former Nike colleague, Ian Hamilton. It will become clear as to why Dave has such admiration for Ian. Together, they built Nike Tennis with Phil Knight’s support.  They signed and outfitted Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, and many other legends of the game. Ian would then lead Planet Hollywood’s All-Star Cafe, working with the likes of Tiger Woods and Shaq.  After years in sports marketing, Ian was highly sought after to be the PBA Tour Commissioner. Today, Ian Chairs the Board of Nike’s U.S. and Canada Sports Camps while also serving on several other boards. Dave caught up with late last year while Ian was between playing tennis and drum lessons.  

Podcast Highlights

8:10 – Knocking adidas off the top shelf: “It was all hands on deck. I mean, everybody showed up everybody unpacked boxes. We stacked them floor to ceiling in the suite. Then there was a non-stop flow of athletes all day, every day for the whole tournament. And you know, our whole mission was to just get as many Nike shoes on as many tennis players as we could, because we were just trying to knock adidas off the top shelf.”

9:45 – Signing Andre Aggasi to Nike: “I told him, I said, look you’re going to be a Nike guy one day. I said, when you turn pro you call me.”

14:20 – Nike signing players with Charisma and Attitude: “I think that started with John (McEnroe). When he (Phil Knight) went to Wimbledon that first year that he was looking around for tennis players, somebody came up to him and said, hey, there’s this this kid in the back court. He goes back to check it out and it’s John McEnroe. Somebody with talent, but also some style. I think that was the attraction and I think that attitude sort of lent itself to what we were trying to create with Nike tennis.”

25:50 – Running the All-Star Cafe at Planet Hollywood: “I got offered the job to run the All-Star cafe, which was the sports theme division, following the same model as, as planet Hollywood. And instead of using celebrities to build the brand, it was to use athletes to build the brand and the athletes that we had were Tiger Woods, Shaquille O’Neal, Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky, and Ken Griffey Jr. And I’m looking at that group thinking, okay, I can use that group to build a brand.”

29:00 – Working at the Professional Bowling Association: “There’s like 10 million registered league bowlers in America and they all watch the show and week in, and week out. We tripled The NHL’s in ratings numbers, just because you have this core audience of league bowlers that are going to watch the show.”

31:00 – US Sports Camps: “2019 was the best year in the history of the company we had. We ran over about 110,000 kids at over a thousand locations in the US and basically, you know, what we do is we find really great coaches that have access to facilities that know how to run a great camp.”