Over 63,000 employees, more than $ 30 billion in annual revenue: Nike is not one of, Nike is THE leading sports goods manufacturer in the world. Since 1971 the “Swoosh” has adorned the Nike brand and is today one of the best known brands in the world. According to the legend, the company paid only 35 US dollars for the logo design by the graphic designer Carolyn Davidson. But let’s start at the beginning.
How it all Started
One of the most important building blocks in Nike’s cultural legacy is the often-quoted and so famous story of performance sportsman Phil Knight and his coach Bill Bowerman. This ingenious team at the University of Oregon did not only achieve unbelievable success in competitions, but can also boast that they have set the course in a new age of running shoe development. Initially the two sold shoes from the Japanese label Onitsuka Tiger, which is called Asics today. Then they decided to make shoes themselves in 1971.
In 1972 the first collection of their own was ready for market – an exceptionally light sports shoe with a profile sole. It would become a model for everyone, a comfortable running shoe that could meet the upcoming running boom of the 1960s. This is the Cortez. The breakthrough came with a marketing coup that had previously worked for Adidas and Puma: they offered themselves as equipment for well-known athletes, who were able to compete for the Olympics or other major events. The sporting goods manufacturer quickly recognized that the success of the Nike brand is closely linked to sporting success.
In the seventies, Nike gradually increased its market share in the US market. In addition to running shoes, it was mainly tennis shoes, which increased the awareness level of the new company. With John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase, two of the world’s top players were endorsed by Nike and gained a lot of attention.
The Air Jordan
In the mid-1980s, the “Air Jordan” was launched in cooperation with the basketball superstar Michael Jordan. Although most people probably associate Tinker Hatfield with the design of the Jordan series, it was Peter Moore who designed the Air Jordan I. With the huge Nike logo and the different colors, the Air Jordan I stood out from all other basketball shoes on the courts of the NBA. The shoe was first produced for Michael Jordan in 1984, matching the Chicago Bulls jerseys, in the colors black and red. The NBA had, however, officially banned Jordan from wearing the Air Jordan I because NBA Commissioner David Stern thought the design of the shoe contained too little white and did not match the rest of the team’s outfit. Michael Jordan paid a $5,000 fine for every game in which he wore Air Jordan I.
The Jordan brand is now a household name and people of all ages and social status line up eagerly for the release of the latest Air Jordan model. Some of this success can be attributed to the fact that the shoes, from the Jordan III to the most recent model, have always been about Michael Jordan. The designers take his ideas, hobbies, and life into account and incorporate these feelings into the shoes. In the first year of the cooperation, Nike generated $130 million with the Air Jordan brand. In total Jordan is said to have brought the company about $2.6 billion in sales. The Air Jordan line continues its tradition of quality, high-fashion basketball and athletic shoes that appeal to the masses.
The Nike Air Max
The fairy tale of Nike Air Max began in 1985, and thus it was also the beginning of one of the most successful models ever worldwide. The shoe was designed by Frank Rudy and Tinker Hatfield. Rudy developed the world’s first shock-absorbing sole system for sports shoes. This was also the cornerstone for many successive advances and the “air technology” he invented. It was a milestone in the development of the sport shoe technology. On March 26th, 1987 the first Nike Air Max, “Air Max 1”, was launched in a red and white combination. This color combination was deliberately chosen by Tinker Hatfield, and he was inspired by the refined architecture of the Centre Pompidou, the world-famous and state-owned art and cultural center in Paris. The Nike Air Max 90 was born in the 90s and is probably still the best-known model in sports history. The Nike Air Max is indispensable for sports and fashion conscious people.
A Marketing Success Story
In 1982, Nike aired its first national television ads, created by newly formed ad agency Wieden+Kennedy (W+K), during the broadcast of the New York Marathon. The Cannes Advertising Festival has named Nike its Advertiser of the Year in 1994 and 2003, making it the first company to receive that honor twice.
Nike gained the world’s leading position as a sports article supplier in 1989, which it has maintained until today. Nike pays top athletes in many sports to use their products and promote and advertise their technology and design. In 1994 the football world champions from Brazil were sponsored. In 1996 the then little known golf player Tiger Woods was sponsored for $5 million a year. Later the professional cyclist and triathlete Lance Armstrong was won for the company.
Nike also sponsored association football players such as Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney, Francesco Totti, Andrés Iniesta and Landon Donovan among others. January 2013, Nike signed Rory McIlroy, the then No 1 golfer in the world to a 10-year sponsorship deal worth $250 million. In June 2015, Nike signed an 8-year deal with the NBA to become the official apparel supplier for the league, beginning with the 2017–18 season.
Nike is currently sponsoring a group of long-distance runners in an attempt to run a sub-two hour marathon. The current world record is 2:02:57. Nike is putting together a team of “designers, scientists, coaches, and statisticians” with the goal of having one or more runners break the record by 3 percent.
Nike produces a wide range of sports equipment. They currently make shoes, jerseys, shorts, cleats, baselayers, etc. for a wide range of sports, including track and field, baseball, ice hockey, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, and cricket. The most recent additions to their line are the Nike 6.0, Nike NYX, and Nike SB shoes, designed for skateboarding. Nike has recently introduced cricket shoes called Air Zoom Yorker. In 2008, Nike introduced the Air Jordan XX3, a high-performance basketball shoe designed with the environment in mind.
Nike sells an assortment of products, including shoes and apparel for sports activities like association football, basketball, running, combat sports, tennis, American football, athletics, golf, and cross training for men, women, and children. Nike also sells shoes for outdoor activities such as tennis, golf, skateboarding, association football, baseball, American football, cycling, volleyball, wrestling, cheerleading, aquatic activities, auto racing, and other athletic and recreational uses. Nike teamed up with Apple to produce the Nike+ product that monitors a runner’s performance via a radio device in the shoe that links to the iPod nano.
In 2004, Nike launched the SPARQ Training Program/Division. Some of Nike’s newest shoes contain Flywire and Lunarlite Foam to reduce weight. The Air Zoom Vomero running shoe, introduced in 2006 and currently in its 11th generation, featured a combination of groundbreaking innovations including a full-length air cushioned sole, an external heel counter, a crashpad in the heel for shock absorption, and Fit Frame technology for a stable fit.
The Nike brand, with its distinct Swoosh logo, quickly became regarded as a status symbol in modern urban fashion and hip-hop fashion due to its association with success in sport. Beginning in the 1980s, various items of Nike clothing became staples of mainstream American youth fashion, especially tracksuits, shell suits, baseball caps, Air Jordans, and Air Max running shoes with thick, air cushioned rubber soles and contrasting blue, yellow, green, white, or red trim. Limited edition sneakers and prototypes with a regional early release were known as Quickstrikes, and became highly desirable items for teenage members of the sneakerhead subculture.
By the 1990s and 2000s, American and European teenagers associated with the preppy or popular clique began combining these sneakers, leggings, sweatpants, crop tops, and tracksuits with regular casual chic street clothes such as jeans, skirts, leg warmers, slouch socks, and bomber jackets. Particularly popular were the unisex spandex Nike Tempo compression shorts worn for cycling and running, which had a mesh lining, waterproofing, and, later in the 2000s, a zip pocket for a Walkman or MP3 player.
From the late 2000s into the 2010s, Nike Elite basketball socks began to be worn as everyday clothes by hip-hop fans and young children. Originally plain white or black, these socks had special shock absorbing cushioning in the sole plus a moisture wicking upper weave. Later, Nike Elite socks became available in bright colors inspired by throwback basketball uniforms, often with contrasting bold abstract designs, images of celebrities, and freehand digital print to capitalise upon the emerging nostalgia for 1990s fashion.
Nike is constantly working on deepening its fashion credentials. One place this happens is the Nike Lab. This is where many of the experimental collaborations begin. But Nike also stays focused on the needs of its most loyal customers, who have always found ways to incorporate sneakers into cutting-edge streetwear looks, much like the New Yorkers who took to the Air Force One three decades ago. Then there’s the sneakerhead community that is passionate about each new creation that Nike brings to the market.
Nike also tries to be as specific as possible when speaking to communities. With 63,000 employees around the world, it’s able to focus design on the cultural nuances of a city, country, and even particular historical events. At every big cultural or sporting event, such as the Olympics, there’s an effort to create products that are relevant. At the 2012 Olympics, for instance, Nike developed Flyknit technology, made of ultra-light yarn, which was designed to improve athlete’s performance and manufactured in a highly sustainable way that prevented waste; Nike was deliberately sending an environmentalist message at a moment of maximum global impact. The shoe quickly became a fashion symbol in its own right.
The company was founded on January 25, 1964, as Blue Ribbon Sports, by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, and officially became Nike, Inc. on May 30, 1971. The company takes its name from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. Their track record over the past few decades has shown that the “Just Do It” motto has worked out exceptionally well for them.