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CNBC's Darren Rovell: Piecemeal Television Does Not Do Anything For The Viewers

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 11:35 PM, under , , ,

San Antonio, TX (Feb 12, 2008) - I turned on the television this evening to watch Swoosh! Inside Nike, the new documentary from CNBC's Darren Rovell. My expectations for this show were low, as I feared it would turn into a love fest for Nike like the CNBC documentary on McDonald's was. As the show started, the expectations stayed low as it seemed to start as an advertorial for the company. But that did not last long as Rovell presented a crisply edited, fast paced look at the growth of Nike and the challenges they have faced over the years. People who read our Business Controls Caddy blog would see me saying that what Nike has done over the years seems, on its face, to be a textbook case of strong corporate governance.

That being said, there were a few things that I noticed during the show that raised some questions for me. Mr. Rovell was gracious enough to talk on the phone about these questions.

EOSM: What gave you the idea for this show?

DR: I have been talking to Nike people week-in and week-out over the years and I thought it would be great to do a show to tell a story people have not seen or heard. The way it turned out, I consider this the best piece of work I have done in my journalism career.

EOSM: I was watching to see if the Nike VP of Corporate responsibility was going to keep a straight face when talking about the fact that Nike did not want to treat its third world factory workers as "a commodity". Dis you feel she was being sincere.

DR: Sometimes it is hard to get by the corporate speak to hear what they are saying. But I walked away from this believing that they are committed to doing the right thing. The fact is that Nike is now considered to be the gold standard in the treatment of their workers. That doesn't mean that there are no issues at all here. Making sneakers in a factory is very hard work, and I would challenge anybody to walk into a factory in the United States [doing similar work] and not find labor issues.

EOSM: OK, so you interviewed a worker from a factory that was provided by the state. Why did you not talk to other people in the same factory instead of going to a different factory?

DR: Actually we did talk to other workers from the same factory. Nike was there for those interviews, but they weren't watching our every step. Those interviews, as well as others with both opponents and proponents of Nike, ended up on the cutting room floor, but it doesn't mean we didn't use their insights. We went to three factories. One we visited was selected by us and we asked them the day before at the close of business if we could visit the factory the next day. It happened that quickly and no company, even if they were trying to put on a show, could pull something like that off so quickly if their operations weren't genuine.

EOSM: You interviewed Tiger Woods in the show, but it seemed disconnected to me because there was no story about the Nike foray into the golf marketplace. Is there a reason for this?

DR: I wanted to talk to Tiger about the his famous ad [with the golf ball tricks on the club] because I have always loved it. I could have included a little bit about the golf business, but that would have been piecemeal television, which does not accomplish anything for anybody, especially the viewers. The real story that came out in making this show is that the next Michael Jordan [for Nike] is Michael Jordan! The show also evolved and was refined. It was fun putting in the skateboarding piece because a lot of people probably did not know about that, which is a great twist.

EOSM: Given the fact that Tiger does not like to give a lot of interviews, was it hard getting him to participate? Were there any restrictions on what you were allowed to ask him?

DR: This is the fourth interview I have done with Tiger, and there were absolutely no restrictions. The one time I interviewed him and was surprised by his openness and candid responses was when I did a story for [ESPN's] Outside the Lines about the theft of his identity. He really felt strongly about the issue despite the fact that he's considered a private person.

EOSM: I use the story of his identity theft in privacy presentations and make to companies and groups, with the point being if it can happen to him, it can happen to anybody.

DR: Cool.

EOSM: I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the show and helped restore my faith in CNBC to do quality journalism. Congratulations on a great show.

DR: Thank you.

Eye on Sports Media has absolutely no problem in recommending that people catch this documentary and learn things they did not know about Nike. Little things like the little Swoosh logo only cost then $30 or so to get designed. That is an investment I would like to have made.

We wold also like to thank Darren Rovell for taking the time to talk to us after the show tonight.

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