How Nike And Michael J. Fox Envision The Future of Fundraising

The shoe company is releasing a rare edition of a Back to the Future-themed shoe to benefit Fox’s Parkinson’s foundation.

Great Scott! Nike and Michael J. Fox have released a limited edition, auto-lacing shoe. It’s called the Nike Mag, a concept that first appeared in the ‘80s classic Back to the Future II. Fox’s movie persona, Marty McFly, got to strap on a pair after hopping into a Delorean-based time machine to blast 30 years ahead in the space-time continuum.


Technically, the day that McFly time-hopped to has passed. It was October 21, 2015. Entrepreneurs targeting that anniversary have made a boatload. But Fox timed this launch perfectly, tweeting a picture of him with a prototype during that movie-versary last year to keep interest building.

The shoes may end up as coveted as Biff’s Grays Sports Almanac. Or in non-Back to the Future allusions: super-rare and valuable. They won’t be sold commercially. Instead, 89 pairs paying homage the movie’s 1989 release date will be given away in a sweepstakes to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Between October 4 and October 11, movie fans and sneaker heads alike can buy a $10 ticket as many times as they want. The winners will be announced October 17, although a few pairs will probably be auctioned at Nike events in Hong Kong and London, and the foundation’s annual gala in New York.

Parkinson’s is a degenerative brain disease, the second most common behind Alzheimer’s. (Fox himself was diagnosed with it in the early 90s.) In general, it affects movement and ultimately people’s mood and cognitive functions. About one in 100 people over 60 are diagnosed, afflicting 1 million people in the U.S. and five times more worldwide. To combat that, the Michael J. Fox Foundation funds scientific research and connects participants to clinical trials.

Like Fox’s franchise movie, this fundraiser stems from another campaign that made a big enough impact to earn a sequel. In 2011, Nike and MJFF held an eBay auction for 1,500 versions of an earlier style of movie-replica shoe. It glowed, lacked the smart-lacing technology, and people still went nuts. MJFF raised nearly $10 million in 10 days, in part because of a donation matching program backed by Google cofounder Sergey Brin, and his ex-wife, 23andMe cofounder Anne Wojcicki.

For Nike, this sort of cause marketing may have another payoff. The company plans to debut another “power-lacing” model, the HyperAdapt 1.0, in stores this fall. Inventing the Nike Mag may not be quite the same accomplishment as building a time machine out of a Delorean. But its popularity might help future sales.

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Correction: This article previously referred to Anne Wojcicki as Sergey Brin’s wife; the two are no longer married. Additionally, the some events where the shoes will be auctioned are Nike events, not foundation events as this article previously stated.

About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.