Joaquin Higaldo, Vice President of Nike Football

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, May 15, 2002, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: What if I told you football is the world's most popular sport, and I'm not talking about the one with pigskins, touchdowns and tailgating. Football to the rest of the world is what U.S. Yanks refer to as soccer. It's become a $2.2 billion business that has Nike hanging up its Air Jordans and strapping on its cleats.

Joining me now is Joaquin Higaldo, the vice president of Nike Football. Good to have you.


CAVUTO: This is big, big, big now, isn't it?

HIGALDO: Yes. It's become a very, very important sport for us on a global level. The impact that the sport of football has on the rest of our business in places like Europe, Asia, South America, is pretty incredible.

CAVUTO: How is it though in this country, outside of the young kid level, it does not seem to grow to the mass appeal that it does abroad?

HIGALDO: Well, I think you hit it on the head. At a participant level, there's about 8.5 million kids playing. So it is a significant number of kids that bought into the sport and are really committed to the sport.

I think what happens at a professional level, Neil, is that people tend to judge sports by the number of spectators that go to see the event. And quite frankly, in this country, you have four professional sports leagues that are very entrenched, have established fans and certainly have established relationships with the media. So it makes it a challenge to establish it, but I think the MLS has done a very respectable job in building this sport at the professional level.

CAVUTO: Here's what I got to ask you though. Soccer-related revenue for you generates, what, about 500, $600 million, right?

HIGALDO: We're going to be about $500 million at the close of this World Cup.

CAVUTO: All right. But basketball, that is more than $3 billion. Overall revenues for you guys in excess of $10 billion. So is soccer worth the time and effort of you going around the globe to do it?

HIGALDO: It absolutely is because I think soccer in and of itself is a huge growth opportunity for Nike because we are talking about a $2.8 billion market around the world.

CAVUTO: But help me with what you get out of it. In soccer, they were these special cleats, right? It is not like basketball players, where, all right, I will wear his sneakers.

HIGALDO: Well, we sell equipment, which would be balls, shin guards, goalkeeper gloves. We sell a considerable amount of apparel. In fact, our apparel business last fiscal year was bigger than our footwear business. And then we sell cleats.

CAVUTO: But Umbro does that, right? They do the same apparel thing, so do you cut the market up too much?

HIGALDO: Typically, the competitors sell the same range of product and typically there is enough room for everybody to participate. What I will say is that from a brand perspective, the impact that we see of soccer on the rest of the world is really incredible. So in Europe, at the close of World Cup `98, we did some interesting things around that event. Footwear market share, and I'm talking about overall market share, not just the sport of football but basketball, cross training, went up seven points.

CAVUTO: And, obviously, it's registering with folks. I mean, your audience has grown considerably. But you need to really get up to significant levels in this country for it to be a marquee sport, right?

HIGALDO: In this country, you are referring to a significant number of participants...

CAVUTO: And fans.

HIGALDO: Well, with 8.5 million participants in this country under the age of 18, and it's just passed baseball as the No. 1 sport under 12, for a brand like Nike that's a pretty significant opportunity.

CAVUTO: Mr. Higaldo, wish you well. Good luck with this constant flying around the world.

HIGALDO: Thank you for your time.

CAVUTO: Thank you.

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