NEW YORK: Nike, the sportswear giant, is seeking to utilise knowledge about competing products to increasingly differentiate its own portfolio, rather than to identify ideas for possible new offerings.

"I would say that the distance between Nike and our competition is a lot less than the distance between Nike and our potential," Mark Parker, Nike's chief executive, told Fast Company.

"It's easy to feel good when you're comparing yourself to somebody that frankly is not a great standard. I'm not dissing the competition or anything, but, well, I'll just say that our potential is just so much greater."

Innovative products like the Nike FuelBand, which is worn on the wrist and can be connected to the web to upload and compare a user's performance level, is one example of its cutting-edge approach.

"Despite the fact that we're successful, we like to challenge ourselves. You can't wait for there to be a fire drill," he said. "In the end, I think that will wind up being your death."

Although the company spent two years working on the FuelBand, its launch was actually preceded by a competing product, Up, from a young firm called Jawbone, which was then recalled after some buyers experienced what were termed as "issues".

Jawbone recently released a new version of Up, and Under Armour, the sports apparel firm, has rolled out the Armour39 fitness band. Fitbit, a specialist in wearable technology, is also active in this area.

Stefan Olander, vice president of Nike's Digital Sport group, argued it tries to avoid being sidetracked. "We don't really look to [the] competition for ideas – and I don't mean that in an arrogant way," he said.

However, he added that members of its Digital Sport unit regularly bought new fitness apps and gadgets from headphones to "running watches". After testing these tools, they then meet to discuss their views.

"We would see the pain points in the experience and see some things that were done pretty good," said Olander. "We'd do the same thing with our own products."

Nike's FuelBand ended up being highly distinctive from rival offerings, and made a major impact in the market, as shown in this article, written by Geoffrey Precourt, Warc's US editor.

"Brands like Adidas and Under Armour are all doing new things," said Sam Poser, an analyst at Sterne Agee. "When Nike's competition is doing a lot, Nike tends to respond even better. When nothing is going on, Nike leads the pack, but it's not as innovative."

Data sourced from Fast Company; additional content by Warc staff