Interview with Sheila Kelly on the Nike MAG.
Sheila Kelly has known about the 2011 Nike MAG project for years. As Deputy Director of Development for The Michael J. Fox Foundation, Kelly worked with Nike to help connect the dots on the special “Back For The Future” project to raise money in search for a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
Kelly gives us the background to the Nike MAG development, Michael J. Fox’s role in the project, what Christopher Lloyd did with his gifted pair of 2011 Nike MAG’s, and some thoughts on the MAG sneaker and the sneakerhead community…
CounterKicks: How did this “Back To The Future” shoe project with Nike come about?
Sheila Kelly: It was an idea that was generated by Nike. There were three people at Nike who spearheaded this: Tinker Hatfield (the original sneaker designer), Mark Parker (now Nike CEO) and Pam McConnell (Global Director of Entertainment Marketing) who also worked on the film. The three of them got together and knew that they wanted to bring the sneaker back. They decided it would be even better if they could use that to leverage money and awareness for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. So they approached us with the idea.
CK: Why did you feel that right now was the right time to do this?
Kelly: Back to the Future was such a great time for Michael professionally and personally. The sneaker was ready and it was perfect timing for us because it coincided with something we have going on at the foundation right now called the Brin Wojcicki $50-Million Challenge. That challenge was started by Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google) and his wife Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of genetics company 23andme. They will very generously, dollar for dollar, through the end of 2012 match any new money that we bring in, up to $50 million dollars.
Through this Nike project, anybody who bid and purchases these sneakers will be new to the foundation. Which means all of the donations coming in through Nike will be matched dollar for dollar. It will ultimately double the financial impact of the project.
CK: How much do you estimate the Michael J. Fox Foundation raised already?
Kelly: When you look at the sales on eBay and what the sales are, unless money is in hand we can’t really report it, but conservatively we think we’ve already raised about $2 million. We’re estimating about $3 million by the halfway point of the auctions. This could mean $5 million for the foundation.
CK: How involved has Michael J. Fox been with this whole project?
Kelly: He was very involved. He met with the Nike folks. He saw the sneaker a couple months ago. He knew everything that was happening. Frank Marshall, whose wife is Kathleen Kennedy, is on our board of directors. Frank’s been involved with “Back to the Future” as the producer. He directed Nike’s lost “Back to the Future” episode that you may have seen. I was on set for that and Michael was aware that was taking place. As you know, Michael was on David Letterman to announce this project, so Michael’s been involved all along.
CK: Michael was also on the season finale of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” last week.
Kelly: Yes! He was on the season finale of Curb and he’s been getting such positive response for that.
CK: How did that come about?
Kelly: He was approached by Larry David a while ago. It was actually over a year ago that Larry David approached him, so this has been in the works for quite a while. Last year, he did appear on a number of episodes of “The Good Wife” and was actually nominated for an Emmy. He’ll actually be appearing on a number of episodes of the Good Wife this year as well.
CK: Why do you think the Nike MAG is such an iconic shoe?
Kelly: Back to the Future has such a cult following, and that coupled with the sneakerhead community, which I just learned about for this project, is a fierce loyal group. It really adds to the shoe’s iconic status. There’s also our Parkinson’s advocates and people who are passionate about finding a cure for Parkinson’s. Those three groups coming together have really made this a dynamic project.
The sneakers themselves are really cool. The technology is amazing, with the LED lights in them that stay lit for up to four hours. When Michael wore the sneakers in the movie, there was a wire running up the back of his leg and he had a huge battery in the back pocket of his jeans. None of that is needed for these sneakers, you just press on the ear and the stay lit for four hours.
CK: Does Michael J. Fox have a pair yet?
Kelly: He doesn’t have a pair yet, but he’ll be getting them next month. He’s very excited. He is autographing the first pair that was auctioned off at the Los Angeles live auction that kicked everything off last week. The rapper Tinie Tempah purchased the first pair for $37,500 and Michael is going to autograph the special case that those are going to come in.
Another really nice piece is Christopher Lloyd, you know Doc from “Back to the Future,” received a pair from Nike as a thank you. We just found out that he donated those back to us, so that the foundation could auction them off. He signed his pair and they’re going to be auctioned off this Saturday at the Niketown store in New York City.
CK: What are some things you learned about the sneaker community that you didn’t know about before?
Kelly: One of the things that I learned is that people pay a lot of money for sneakers and don’t wear them. I think that’s fascinating and very cool. The [sneakerhead] community is really in-the-know as to what’s going on. I think the people that Nike has brought to us have been so wonderful because they’re excited about the sneaker, but they’re also very excited about the fact that all of the money is coming back to Parkinson’s research.
We’re so thankful to Nike. They could have said we’re going to donate 50 percent of the net proceeds, but they didn’t do that. All of the net proceeds are coming to the foundation. Nike’s not turning a profit on these shoes at all. The marketing alone has cost them a significant amount of money and they’re not recouping any of that. That’s how strongly they believe in this project and how much they support Michael. Through Nike’s promotion of this initiative, it has really helped draw awareness to the foundation. For us it’s about bringing a new community of people to what we’re doing and we’re just beyond grateful to Nike for doing that for us.
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