It’s rare when a retailer sues one of its key suppliers, but that’s exactly what is taking place between Fleet Feet, Inc. and Nike.
Fleet Feet Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Nike Inc. over Nike’s advertising usage of phrases such as “Change Everything” and “Running Changes Everything.”
According to the lawsuit, Fleet Feet charges that it has trademarked the two phrases and spent substantial resources making those slogans the cornerstones for its brand.
“Yet despite that knowledge, Nike in July 2019 launched a national advertising campaign based on the marks SPORT CHANGES EVERYTHING and RUNNING CHANGES EVERYTHING. The first of these Nike marks bears a confusing resemblance to Fleet Feet’s marks, and the second is identical to Fleet Feet’s mark,” wrote Fleet Feet in court papers.
The July campaign used the “Sports Changes Everything” and was tied to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which took place July 9 in Cleveland.
The complaint said Nike brand managers have “historically” previewed advertising campaigns with Fleet Feet, but Nike provided no advance notice with the MLB campaign.
The suit also claims that Scott Gravatt, Nike’s running specialty sales director for North America, sent a note July 22 stating, “Kudos to you guys for using ‘Running Changes Everything.’”
The suit also charges that in August Nike’s website featured the “Running Changes Everything” phrase. When Fleet Feet complained, Nike swapped “running” with “sport,” the suit added.
Legal issues aside, the suit certainly complicates the relationship between Fleet Feet and Nike, which is estimated to be the number four footwear brand in Fleet Feet behind Brooks, New Balance and Hoka and the number one apparel brand in many stores.
Nike has been a longtime supporter of Fleet Feet since its founding in 1976. And while Fleet Feet, with its annual sales of $230 million, will never be the brand’s largest customer it is a major player in the performance running business, the category that launched Nike on its way to $36 billion in annual revenue.
Historically, Nike has not backed away from litigation. In fact, the lawsuit states that when Fleet Feet complained about what it saw as trademark infringement, Nike executives allegedly said they intended to use the SPORT CHANGES EVERYTHING campaign through the 2020 Super Bowl and “that Nike is a big company and will, if necessary, spend millions to defend its continuation of the campaign.”
Trademark lawyers contacted by Running Insight said part of owning a trademark is protecting it and that logic may, in part, have contributed to Fleet Feet’s decision to file a suit.
Fleet Feet is seeking to stop the alleged infringement and recover damages “to compensate Fleet Feet for the injuries and damages it has suffered as a result of Nike’s willfully wrongful conduct.”
Fleet Feet’s 2019 sales are projected to reach $230 million, up from $210 million in 2018 for the franchisor, which now has 186 stores in 37 states.