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Origin of Nike

Updated on December 31, 2014

Where NIKE Began

Nike was founded in January 25, 1964 by two track athletes from the University of Oregon, Philip Knight and his coach Bill Bowerman, Nikebiz (2010). Bowerman was a nationally respected track and field coach at the University of Oregon who was constantly seeking ways of giving his athletes a competitive advantage. He experimented with different innovations with running shoes. The established footwear manufactures in the 1950s ignored the ides he offered so began cobbling shoes for his runners. Phil Knight was a talented middle-distance runner from Portland, who had enrolled at Oregon in the fall of 1955 and competed for Bowerman’s track program. His letters to manufacturers in Japan and Asia proposing the manufacture of running shoes in Japan with more established German brands went unanswered.

He took a chance and made a cold-call to on the Onitsuka Co. in Kobe, Japan, persuading the manufacturer of Tiger shoes to make him a distributor of the shoes in the US. Knight sent Bowerman several pairs hoping to make sale but instead, Bowerman offered Knight his partnership, and to provide his footwear design ideas to Tiger. They formed Blue Ribbon Sports, each pledging $500. They placed their first order of 300 shoes in January 1964. The foundation of Nike was thus established.

The Growth of NIKE

The company is headquartered near Beaverton, Oregon, in the Portland Metropolitan area, and is one of two fortune 500 companies headquartered in Oregon, Blog (2006). It opened these headquarters in 1990, with each building being named after a famous Nike-endowed athlete, such as Mike Schmidt. In the early 1990s the first NIKE TOWN stores were opened for business. Many organizations within Nike were also formed, including Nike Regrind, Nike PLAY, and Nike NEAT.

It was founded as “Blue Ribbon Sports”, and officially became Nike in 1978. In the Tailwind running shoe in 1979, the famous Nike AIR technology was born. Nike entered the 1980s in a roll due to the successful launch of the Nike AIR technology. By the end 1980, Nike completed its IPO becoming a publicly traded company. This began a period of transition whereby several of Nike’s pioneers moved on to other pursuits.

NIKE- Greek Goddess of Victory

The company initially operated as a distributor for Japanese shoe maker Onitsuka Tiger (now ASICS), making most sales at track meets out of Knight’s automobile, a green Plymouth Valiant. Blue Ribbon Sports prepared to launch its own line of footwear which would bear the Swoosh logo, the independent, (2010) nearly designed by Carolyn Davidson. She got $35 for her creation. The Swoosh was first used by Nike on June 18, 1971, and became registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on January 22, 1974. The Nike Swoosh embodies the spirit of the winged goddess who inspired the most courageous and chivalrous warriors at the dawn of civilization.

The name Nike was inspired by the Greek word which means victory. Nike, pronounced NI-KEY, was the name of the Greek goddess of victory. This name was suggested by Johnson to his bosses after he had dreamed of the goddess one fateful night.

In 1976, the company hired John Brown and Partners, based in Seattle, as its first advertising agency. The following year, the agency created the first “brand ad” for Nike, called “There is no finish line,” in which no Nike product was shown. By 1980, Nike had attained a 50% market share in the US athletic shoe market, and the company went public in December of that year. It opened with the sale of two million shares of common stock. Nike employed roughly 2,700 employees in 1980. In 1981, Nikes were sold in 40 foreign countries more than 200 unique Nike shoes were produced in masses. Sports-specific shoes and cleats became available all over the world. Nike began its campaigns through a local advertising agency called Wieden+ Kennedy.

Nike-Just do it

The agency co-founder Dan Wieden coined the slogan “Just Do It” used by Nike in 1988 as a campaign ad. This ad was chosen by Advertising Age as one of the top five slogans of the 20th century, and was enshrined in the Smithsonian institution, Nikebiz, (2010).

In the mid 1980s, Nike had slipped from its leading position in the industry. This was partly because they had badly miscalculated on the aerobics boom. They had given upstart competitor s an almost completely open field to improve their business. Fortunately, in 1985, the debut for an NBA rookie, Michael Jordan, helped bolster Nike’s bottom-line. Michael Jordan, a basketball megastar, signed an endorsement contract. This was followed by the release of his signature shoe by Nike in 1985, the Air Jordan.

NBA had originally banned this shoe because it didn’t match the league’s dress code. It was said to feature “non-regulation” colours. This action only served to give the design a higher profile thus extensive publicity. Jordan didn’t listen, due to influence from his agent, and thusly, the great basketball shoe boom began. This gave Nike a major boost in the industry, their revenues topping $1 billion for the first time in 1986.


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