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Business of HYPE: Drieke Leenknegt

Business of HYPE is a weekly series brought to you by HYPEBEAST Radio and hosted by jeffstaple. It’s a show about creatives, brand-builders, entrepreneurs and the realities behind the dreams they’ve built. This week, Jeff sits down with Drieke Leenknegt, the former Global Marketing Executive of Nike. 

Over the past twenty years, Leenknegt has held many titles at Nike, from Communications, Design, Energy and Brand Director, to eventually serving as Global VP of Influencer Marketing & Collaborations. Her work has been crucial in Nike’s dominance as the leading force in sneaker culture, but you wouldn’t guess this accomplished marketeer grew up in a small Belgium village. Leenknegt recalls that unlike her family’s “linear thinking” she had a more “non-linear” approach, with a sporadic career path that spanned radio and advertising before landing a role in Nike’s communications department.

Years after working out of Nike’s EMEA office, where she helped develop Nike’s Energy Marketing and Nike’s Sportswear division, Leenknegt transferred to the Beaverton, Oregon headquarters where she most recently led the influencer marketing and collaborations division. While collaborations are the norm of today, she admits a successful one demands “cross-pollination,” stating Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten,” sacai x Nike’s LDWaffle and Tom Sachs x NikeCraft Mars Yard as few examples. 

“The participants in the process need to lower their ego and have mutual respect for one another. There needs to be that mutual respect because it’s going to be ugly throughout the journey. Collaborations are about relationships. If you put transactions as an objective, you’re not going to go very far.”

While Leenknegt has since moved on from Nike, her two-decade-stint at the Swoosh has undoubtedly aided in propelling streetwear and sneaker culture into the billion dollar industries they are today. She attributes much of her success to her late mentor Sandy Bodecker, as well as Fraser Cooke and Mark Parker, each of whom prioritized storytelling, innovation and trust within the Nike ecosystem. She stresses that although the sneaker industry has come a long way, this is only the beginning.

This episode features references to the following:

2:43 – Job title
3:05 – Nike
3:53 – Nike Energy Marketing
5:57 – Best marketing model today
9:16 – Tier 0, quickstrike
10:22 – Fraser Cooke
14:37 – Early beginnings
18:00 – Linear vs non-linear thinking
19:57 – Sandy Bodecker
24:13 – Career path at Nike
35:00 – White Dunk
35:14 – OSGEMEOS
37:39 – Fundamentals for a collaboration
38:51 – Cross-pollination
40:45 – Tom Sachs x NikeCraft Mars Yard
44:05 – Virgil Abloh “The Ten”
49:00 – How did Nike approach Tom Sachs?
51:39 – Nike Dunk
52:11 – Peter Moore
53:50 – Mark Parker
55:48 – Importance of story telling
57:23 – Tinker Hatfield
63:25 – Leaving Nike
70:27 – Importance of a sneaker
70:35 – sacai
77:09 – Virgil Abloh’s Women’s Running Collection
73:21 – Future of sneakers
77:10 – Advice