How my Nike Sponsorship Started
By L-J Anjema © March 1, 2007
How my Nike sponsorship started
As a professional athlete I’m one of the few squash players who is fortunate enough to be sponsored by Nike (the only others include Karim Darwish and Dylan Bennett if I’m correct). This has been one of my dreams since I was a young boy, barely being able to hit a squash ball in any direction of desire.
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” in my opinion is a valuable motto for any squash player to take on board. In september 2005 I acted accordingly and contacted Nike (Nike Europe based in Hilversum, Holland) with the question whether they could help me out filling my closet. My contact at Nike was (and still is) Marjolein Houtsma, a former Dutch national team squash player, a fact of which I knew certainly wouldn’t work against me…
Apparently my timing was great. Tommy Berden (4 times Dutch national champion) and Vanessa Atkinson (former world champion) had just gone separate ways from the company and Marjolein just got her position back being in charge of sponsorships again. She wanted to start giving more attention to squash and as I was the leading Dutch player, her reply was very positive.
When I arranged a meeting with Marjolein at the Nike Europe headquarters building in Hilversum, Holland, I was overwhelmed. This was not just an office building with a large basement for their clothes and shoes. This was a sort of Nike-city!!
The whole premises consisted of 4 huge modern buildings (one of them named after Richard Krajicek, the Dutch Wimbledon champion and the main one named after Bill Bowerman, Nikes founder) harboring workspace for over 1600 employees. There were basketball courts, tennis courts, squash courts and outside there was a running track with Nike-banners all around it. Everywhere I looked I saw people playing sports!! These were all employees taking a ‘lunch break’, Marjolein told me, and obviously they were all wearing Nike from head-to-toe.
After we had a chat in the (Nike)-restaurant she took me to the basement where I tried on 32 different shoes (squash shoes, running shoes, casual shoes etc). She put a lot of them in a huge Nike traveling suitcase and after she threw a lot of shirts, polos, t-shirts, shorts, track suits, sweaters etc in the suitcase, she said to me: “Let’s go to the store upstairs. There you can choose whatever you want!”.
I couldn’t believe my ears and certainly not my eyes when I entered the store. There was a Roger Federer section, a Rafael Nadal section, a Lance Armstrong section, a Tiger Woods section and a basketball section. The range of products varied from Tiger’s driver to watches to sunglasses to wristbands to underwear etc etc etc. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I remember feeling almost dizzy caus I was trying to look at more then one place at the time.
After a good hour of picking and choosing I left the store with one huge Nike suitcase and with 4 full bags full of every Nike item you can imagine or I could think of. When I tried to exit the building I got stuck in the revolving doors while Marjolein shouted to me: “We’ll send you the rest later this week!”.
Still stuck in the revolving doors with 5 bags over my shoulders I sort of half looked back and asked: “THE REST!!!????” To which her reply was: “Yeah, this is just to get your started…”
Later that night I couldn’t sleep. Guilty thoughts about kids in the Third World not having any clothes at all kept disturbing me…
[written Tuesday 21st of November, 2006 at the (John) White-house, Philadelphia, PA USA]
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