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The History of Nike: Explained



In this article we’re looking at a chronology of some of Nike’s historic milestones that helped build the company into the powerhouse it is today, from its humble origins to the choice of its name to some of its most memorable products.

Modest beginnings

Two individuals named Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight are the protagonists of the narrative. After Phil Knight briefly attended Stanford University, Bill Bowerman, a track and field coach at the University of Oregon, reconnected with him. Bowerman was intrigued by the concept of enhancing the performance of sports footwear and running shoes, so he started experimenting with several models after learning a few tactics and recommendations from a local cobbler. The two decided to launch Blue Ribbon Sports, a Eugene, Oregon-based footwear business, on January 25th, 1964. For many years, the business operated at track meetings out of the back of a vehicle.

Initially, the business served as a distributor for Onitsuka Tiger and other foreign shoe brands. After serving as Onitsuka’s sole US distributor for a few years, increased competition prompted Knight and Bowerman to consider how they could improve. As Blue Ribbon Sports transformed into Nike in 1971 and was ready to introduce their own trainer, the firms started to pull apart. For the players he coaches, Bowerman had always developed prototype trainers. He began developing what would become the first-ever Nike sneaker after disassembling many pairs of Onitsuka Tiger running shoes and formulating alternative designs.

How was Nike named

The first worker at the business, Jess Johnson, came up with the idea to rename Blue Ribbon Sports to Nike. Despite the lack of a name for the business, Portland University student Carolyn Davidson had already created the brand’s recognizable Swoosh emblem. Johnson proposed the name Nike, which is derived from the winged Greek goddess of triumph, drawing inspiration from the Swoosh’s shape. The rest is history.

What model of Nike footwear debuted first

The original Nike shoe, known as the “Moon Shoe,” was created using Bowerman’s waffle maker. Bill Bowerman was eating breakfast when he had the idea to create a sole with grooves to improve grip while playing sports. The Waffle Trainer was finally created after a few waffle iron trials, and its gripping and performance-focused design helped it achieve nearly immediate success. The original Nike sneaker was officially a prototype, and it was auctioned off at Sotheby’s for about $450,000.

Increasing momentum

When Nike was prepared to move on with expansion in 1976, they recruited John Brown and Partners, a Seattle-based advertising agency, to assist in increasing their visibility. A year later, the company produced the first Nike brand advertisement, “There is No Finish Line.” Although the advertisement didn’t really show any Nike sneakers up close, it seemed to be a hit and helped the company’s reputation soar.

In 1979, Nike decided to enter the apparel industry due to the success of its sneakers and began producing a variety of sportswear and athletic items. When Nike decided to expand into new markets, it hired Weiden+Kennedy as its worldwide advertising agency. Co-founder Dan Weiden of the group finally came up with the catchphrase “Just Do It” for a 1988 campaign while generating several print and television commercials during the 1980s.

The Jordan period

Later, in 1984, Nike signed Michael Jordan, a young basketball player of 21 years old. Jordan, a rookie in the NBA, passed up the opportunity to sign with Reebok or Converse in favor of Nike for a $500,000 annual salary. Nike’s pledge to offer MJ his own signature line encouraged the signing, and as a result, Air Jordan was created. Michael Jordan was the only person to wear the original Air Jordan 1 sneakers, which were created just for him in late 1984 and finally released to the public in April of 1985. The shoe itself had a high-top design, the recognizable Nike Swoosh, and a black/red “Bred” colorway.

Beginning with the Air Max 1, Nike unveiled a new line of sneakers in 1987. These sneakers, which were largely created by Tinker Hatfield, contained the first actual physical encapsulation of air in their padded midsoles. Nike set up shop at Beaverton, Oregon’s eight-building world headquarters facility, in 1990. The Beaverton headquarters’ sprawling 400-acre property gave 11,000 employees access to a Nike Sports Research lab for creating the newest technology, a Nike Museum to display artifacts from the past, three fitness centers for sponsored athletes, and a variety of sports fields, tracks, and running paths.

World dominance

Nike developed its first line of Niketown chain stores in the 1990s, with the first one arriving in Portland, Oregon. These special shops offered a wide selection of unique Nike merchandise for all kinds of sports while honoring some of Nike’s sponsored stars, like Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods, a renowned golfing sensation, joined the Nike roster in 1996. With this approach, Nike was able to further explore uncharted golfing waters and win over new global followers. Nike made their entry into the skating market in 1997 with a new range of sneakers that had more cushioning, Zoom Air insoles, and improved materials, making them perfect for withstanding hard impacts and skateboarding wear and tear.

Due to the popularity of this brand, Nike decided to expand its entry into the skateboarding market and introduced the Nike SB line in 2001. For $580 million in 2008, Nike bought the English company Umbro, which was best known for their illustrious football uniforms. This action would support Nike’s ongoing invasion of the football market and increase the availability of its current line of football gear and sporting goods. Nike would become the NFL and NBA‘s official supplier in 2012 and 2015, insuring all gear used by players, officials, and staff members. Currently, Nike, Inc. is the biggest and most important provider of sports shoes, clothing, and other sporting goods.