Best Foot Forward

Alumna Mackenzie Anderson Leads Global Purpose Communications and Engagement at Nike

When Nike tapped Mackenzie Anderson to become the company’s global purpose communications and engagement director last year, she packed more than her bags for the move to the corporate giant’s headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

The Georgia Southern University 2007 public relations graduate and former Coca-Cola communications professional brought lessons she learned on the Statesboro campus to the nascent role in the Pacific Northwest.

“The foundation that Georgia Southern provided me has carried throughout my career,” she said. “As communicators, we were taught the immense power words have to motivate and mobilize people to help shape a better world. At our core, we have to understand the relationship between the people we’re trying to reach and the brand we’re representing to build trust and belief. My professors instilled in me a global mindset that was rooted in recognizing and highlighting diversity.”

The central tenets of her global perspective courses continue to play a crucial role in Anderson’s directives, as she is currently charged with leading societal and environmental advances that affect both professional and everyday athletes around the world.

“We believe that you’re inspired to act when you understand the direct impact on something you care about,” she explained. “Take climate change and sport, for example. With marathon times shifting and fewer practice days to play football due to increasingly hot and humid conditions, we want the climate change conversation to be more accessible and relatable – so that you understand the connection to your own life and want to join us in doing something about it.”

Nike leveraged its partnership with the United Nations Foundation to bring professional athletes to the United Nations General Assembly in 2019 to speak about climate change and sport, and help the company in its mission to help protect the planet and create a better future for athletes.

“We’re not the expert on climate change — we defer to those experts that are — but we have the platform and the ability to reach people who may not think of connecting sports and climate change,” she said. “That’s a large part of my day-to-day job. To try to find those ways and those types of conversations that we can enter into that make something as technical and wonky as greenhouse gas emissions or material choices relatable so that our consumer cares about it.”

In “a tried-and-true communications role,” Anderson is able to continue to reach others through her love of storytelling, fostered in Georgia Southern’s classrooms and throughout her career with organizations such as Georgia Aquarium, the Atlanta Braves and The Coca-Cola Company.

In 2019, Anderson’s career-long efforts were recognized as she was named to PRWEEK’s 40 Under 40 honorees. The annual list profiles the top communications professionals across all sectors and industries in the U.S.

“I think I have a knack for storytelling and finding the connection points in various stories to make them more human-centered, and that’s what GSU really gave me,” Anderson said. “That foundation of helping understand the broader context of why we tell these stories and why people need to care. It was the professors that helped us see that there is an emerging world out there.” — Melanie Simón