Creative and empowering—these are the qualities today’s leaders need to thrive in the post-pandemic future. As the former Chief Marketing Officer at Nike, GREG HOFFMAN stood at the helm of one of the world’s most innovative companies as they redefined the meaning of brand authenticity. Under his creative leadership, Nike drove themes of equality, sustainability, and empowerment through sport—meaningful work, inspired in part by Hoffman’s role as a leader of the Nike Black Employee network. In timely and engaging talks, as well his forthcoming book Emotion by Design, Hoffman reveals how we can cultivate a diverse and creative culture in our organizations; build an enduring brand legacy through the power of storytelling; and leave a positive cultural impact.
“Building cultural change at scale takes radical creative collaboration.”— Greg Hoffman
Nike is the rare brand that uses its platform to take a stand on social issues through the lens of sport—and they’ve become innovators in this arena in part due to the creative leadership of Greg Hoffman. Rising from intern to Chief Marketing Officer to Vice President of Global Brand Innovation over the course of his decades-long career, Hoffman revolutionized the way Nike uses its marketing influence—revealing the hard truths of our society in a way that both inspires and empowers people to take action. “We’re in a moment in time that is both a cultural reckoning and a revolution,” Hoffman says. He helped lead some of Nike’s best work—unforgettable social justice initiatives such as the Colin Kaepernick: Crazy Dreams campaign, the Equality campaign, and the Stand Up, Speak Up campaign, to name a few. For his boundary-pushing work and creative stewardship, Fast Company named Hoffman one of the ‘Most Creative People in Business,’ and he has also been recognized as one of Business Insider’s ‘50 Most Innovative CMO’s’ and included on AdAge’s annual Power Players list. Engaging, charismatic, and with remarkable self-possession, Hoffman shows us how we can build a culture of radical creativity within our organizations, as well as leverage our brand to drive positive change in the world.
Hoffman’s insights into emotive storytelling, in particular, are vital to today’s ever-shifting consumer landscape. Picture this: to truly understand Michael Jordan’s greatness, Hoffman and team wanted to put their consumers in Jordan’s shoes. So, they brought the game to them—they built an immersive LED basketball court with real defenders and digital screaming fans. When you stepped onto the court, suddenly you were tasting glory just like your heroes. Hoffman uses real-world case studies, spanning from these immersive experiences to innovation launches to brand and product campaigns, to inspire and delight audiences. His first book, Emotion by Design (Random House, 2022), expands on these stories to offer actionable principles drawn from one of the preeminent brand storytellers of our time. A combination of consumer insights and artistic daring, this eagerly anticipated book promises to be a “masterclass in creativity.”
Beyond the consumer-focused lens, Hoffman’s leadership at Nike helped address diversity and inclusion from within the company’s internal structures. He led the Black Employee Network for the Marketing and Design divisions of the brand, and served as a member of the Nike Foundation Board of Directors. Drawing from his personal and professional experiences as an African-American brand leader, Hoffman reveals the steps leaders can take to elevate and empower diversity within their own organizations.
Today, Hoffman is the founder and principle of Modern Arena, a brand advisory group for both startups and Fortune 500 brands. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and is a member of their Board of Trustees as well as chair of their innovation committee. Hoffman has served as a guest lecturer for the Andreesen Horowitz Talent & Opportunity Fund, Bain & Company consulting, the One Club for Creativity’s One School and as an Innovation Juror at the University of Portland.
Equality by Design Creating a Cultural Impact Through Creative Leadership
By harnessing leadership strategies rooted in creativity, Hoffman turned his company’s ambitious marketing projects into cultural catalysts. Take the Emmy-winning Colin Kaepernick campaign: after kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, Colin found himself no longer on a football roster. Hoffman and his team brainstormed creative ways they could amplify his voice and cause. The resulting campaign, on the 30th anniversary of Just Do It, not only gave Kaepernick a platform; it also helped unite Nike’s consumers as a force for good.
Empathetic Leadership Bridging the Personal and Professional at Work
Whether it’s unpacking our unconscious bias, seeking out skilled mentorship, or simply finding ways to bridge the personal and professional, this talk will leave audiences with a practical methodology for recognizing the importance of diversity, and recruiting, elevating and empowering it within our organizations.
Creativity as a Team Sport How to Support Radical Collaboration
In this talk, Hoffman unpacks insights about the best teams from the world of sport, sharing how their composition and playing style mirrors that of the most innovative organizations’ team management. “I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re alone when they’re trying to crack the creative code,” says Hoffman. If you think of any championship-level team, the only way to emerge from stagnation—be it in an epic sports game or creative output—is through teamwork. Audiences will come away from this talk with the courage to harness creativity and recognize their essential role in creating a culture of ideas.