Nike remains the largest athletic apparel maker in the world, though its hegemony is under pressure. The company turned in three straight quarters of growth in 2018, turning around an extended slump that allowed German rival Adidas to emerge as the more profitable of the two. But in 2018, the company’s big bet was Colin Kaepernick. The quarterback and controversial civil rights activist played a starring role in the 30th anniversary of the company’s “Just Do It” marketing campaign, a series of five ads which first rattled, then delighted, investors. Despite political headwinds, the company showed continued strength in China, with 2018 sales of $1.54 billion, a 26% jump from the year prior. And the company continues to reduce its traditional retail presence to focus on direct-to-consumer sales.
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