Community is the passion point connecting all the dots in Jorge Casimiro’s life—from family to career. Born to Cuban immigrants, his upbringing was rooted in a tight-knit community. And his deep-rooted belief in the power of community propelled him to the executive ranks of Nike Inc., where he leads a fifty-person team dedicated to designing innovative solutions for social impact.
Casimiro has spent the past five years channeling Nike’s brand power, brainpower, and dollars into good causes—particularly the benefits of play and sport. Through his team’s work, Nike is helping 14 million kids around the world improve their health and well-being through physical activity.
“My kids are part of the least active generation in history,” says Casimiro, vice president of global community impact. “It gives me chills to think that my children might have a shorter lifespan than I do.”
Casimiro’s team is combatting the ills of inactivity with innovative and creative solutions that engage kids where they live and play. Headquartered in the Portland, Oregon, metro area, Nike’s impact goals stretch over every global region. In 2012, the company announced a commitment to invest 1.5 percent of pretax income annually to drive positive impact in communities. Casimiro’s division was created to harness and optimize that investment, through teams leading communications, brand activations, programming, partnerships and employee engagement.
“We have this incredible team around the world who are purpose driven, who believe in what Nike stands for, who do this work day in and day out, and they are amazing people,” Casimiro says. “I am in awe of them every day for what they do—our team is our own community. We are a family here—we demand the best of each other, we win as a team and move forward as a team, because society demands that of us.”
For Casimiro, this work is a calling—and failure is not an option. “One thing that came from my family is the concept of ‘there is no finish line,’” he says. “I was taught to always go that extra mile. Now, it’s about making a difference, making an impact, being appreciative of the opportunities we receive, and paying that forward for the next generation.”
Having grown up in Hispanic enclaves across New York City, New Jersey, and South Florida, the first time Casimiro resided outside of a Latino majority was at Brown University, where he studied public policy. His hands-on exposure to politics—he participated in the National Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute program in Washington, DC—helped him to rule out a career in law or medicine. “I fell in love with public policy—how to make an impact, how to effect change, how to make a difference,” he says. “That’s been a critical part of my formation.”
Casimiro’s passion for change landed him roles in government relations and communications at The Coca-Cola Company—including as a communications director based in Mexico City—all paving the way to Nike.
“I have this amazing job where you get to go all over the world and see kids,” he says. “I see my kids in those kids, and those kids in my kids. We’re giving them opportunities in the best way we know how—through the power of sport.”
Made to Play
Much of Nike’s community investment centers on youth, under the umbrella of Made to Play. “We focus on kids between seven and twelve years old because research and science tell us that’s where you’re going to make the biggest impact,” Casimiro says. “That’s when they form habits that last a lifetime.”
A few years ago, Nike joined some seventy academic institutions and nonprofits to study all the current literature about a critical phenomenon: the world is moving less and less. The group synthesized a framework for action, now housed under designedtomove.org. Their conclusion: to get at the root cause, you have to target the right age group and reincorporate physical activity in everyday life. “The premise of Nike’s approach is that kids aren’t made to sit still,” Casimiro says. “They’re literally made to play.”
Nike creates alliances that show kids they can have fun while creating a better future. Through a partnership with Marathon Kids, children can set big goals—like running the equivalent of a marathon or more over the course of the school year—and reap the payoff in a short term. “The kids discover that they’re able to achieve what may seem unattainable, ‘mile by mile, I was able to do it,’” Casimiro says. “Kids have a lot of energy, sometimes up to four marathons [in a year]!”
Regular activity at an early age sets the groundwork for their individual health. Ultimately, it can reduce economic toll on the healthcare system by lessening preventable diseases. With the right mix of sport and play, Casimiro says, you can help break the cycle of inactivity and build communities.
Nike partners with leading nonprofit organizations to execute its global impact strategy. How each program plays out is a local decision, based on city and community dynamics. “We take time to do research, landscaping, insights work, and stakeholder engagement to make sure that we are investing properly in this work,” Casimiro says.
In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as part of Nike’s Olympic program, Casimiro’s team targeted “Olympic Villages,” urban community recreation hubs. “In Rio, kids go to school about four hours a day,” he says. “They spend most of their time at these villages, which are administered by the city government. It’s a safe haven, where parents and grandparents can send their kids because they know they’ll be protected there.”
“I have this amazing job where you get to go all over the world and see kids. I see my kids in those kids, and those kids in my kids. We’re giving them opportunities in the best way we know how—through the power of sport.”
Partnering with nonprofits and municipal agencies, Nike collaborated with the Olympic Villages to deliver expansive programming in Rio around play, sport, and physical activity using a variety of design filters. During the five-year partnership, six hundred physical education teachers are being trained each year and local Nike employees volunteer as coaches and program facilitators, providing one thousand volunteer hours per year at villages close to Nike stores. “It was absolutely incredible to be a part of these villages and inspire youth in some of the most underserved communities and favelas,” Casimiro says.
In China, Nike is partnering with the Ministry of Education to bring sport, physical education, and play to two million kids over three years; the partnership is currently in its second year. In the United States, in addition to supporting a wide variety of community programs, Nike connects to legacies that resonate across cultures. In late 2017, for example, the NIKE Foundation served as a founding donor for a new sports gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum on African American History & Culture, which celebrates the role of sports in the African-American experience.
“This company is what it is because of the more than 70,000 employees who come to work at Nike for the values we stand for, and one of those is community,” Casimiro says. “It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are.”
In 2017, 3,900 Nike retail associates supported kids in sport and play through the Nike Community Ambassador program, which encourages employees to volunteer with a range of youth organizations, including Boys and Girls Clubs. “We leverage what we are as a brand and our single greatest asset, which is incredibly passionate employees,” Casimiro says. “We train our employees on how to be fantastic coaches and offer them tips and tools to make a difference in kids’ lives.”
Nike’s corporate teams support efforts like a Portland bike-share initiative and disaster relief. The company also matches employees’ donations to personal causes 100 percent—and it doubles the match if the cause is community and sport related. (The double match seeks to unify employees around Nike’s cause platform: pooling more dollars to amplify the brand’s impact in a targeted area.)
By far, the most popular corporate volunteer event is Special Olympics Oregon, where employees donate time to lead the Nike Youth Games. “I bring my kids [to the Special Olympics] because I want them to see that the world is made up of many different kinds of people,” Casimiro says. When his daughter was four years old, she asked a Paralympian, Sarah, about her prosthetic leg. “Sarah said, ‘I had a booboo when I was a little kid, and this [leg] helps me run.’ My daughter said, ‘oh, okay’ and moved on; it made perfect sense to her. And so even through experiences like that, you’re creating inclusion.”
All these efforts champion Nike’s commitment to inclusion, which is played out through the power of sport. “To see the impact we’re making for the next generation is deeply personal to me as a dad,” Casimiro says. “Every single kid has potential, whatever their circumstances in life, and we get to give them these opportunities to unleash that potential in a way that’s authentic to who we are—which is through sport and play.”
Nike Community Impact
Nike believes in the power of sport to unleash human potential and build community. The company fuels this belief through Made to Play, its commitment to getting kids moving through play and sport so that they can lead healthier, happier and more successful lives. Together with community partners and our employees around the world, we’re designing innovative solutions to get more than 14 million kids playing, running, and jumping their way to a brighter future. Find out more about Nike’s commitment to getting kids moving and providing opportunities for equal playing fields for all at