Nike, Inc.


Nike: The Beginnings


The Nike Corporation originated from two sources, "Bill Bowerman\'s quest for lighter, more durable racing shoes for his Oregon runners, and Phil Knight\'s search for a way to make a living without having to give up his love of athletics". Their ideas and actions within Nike have radically changed the way sports, business, and popular cultures interact. This influence is seen best through the history of Nike\'s formation in its beginning years.


The concept that would eventually lead to Nike\'s existence began on a rather small scale. While getting his MBA at Stanford, Phil Knight realized the business opportunities within high quality, low cost shoes produced in Japan and shipped to the US for distribution. During a trip around the world in 1963, Knight traveled to Japan. He scheduled an interview with the managers of the Onitsuka Company (now Tiger-Asics), the producers of running shoes under the name of Tiger. Introducing himself as a representative of an American distributor interested in their product, Knight told them his interest in selling their Tiger shoes to American runners. The Tiger executives liked what they heard, and the foundation of Blue Ribbon Sports, a name Knight thought up moments after asked who he represented, was born.


Knight began his enterprise by selling Tiger shoes from the truck of his car during track meets. He met with Bill Bowerman, his former track coach. Bowerman, seeing Knight\'s venture, said to him "These shoes aren\'t half bad, how \'bout letting your old coach in on this?” With that, Knight and Bowerman joined forces, marking the true beginning of the Nike legacy.


The Evolution of the “Swoosh”


With Bowerman\'s help in advertising and shoe design, Knight sold $8,000 worth of Tiger shoes in 1964. They hired Jeff Johnson, a runner from California, to be the fulltime salesman for their budding company. Always seeking ways to improve Tiger designs, Bowerman shipped Onitsuka the plans for one of his shoes. This new line, the Cortez, quickly grasped popularity with runners in the Northwestern states. The Cortez became Tiger\'s best-selling shoe. The Cortez, coupled with Johnson\'s effectiveness as a salesman for runners caused Blue Ribbon Sports to reach vast of popularity, increasing sales to $1 million in less than 5 years.


Knight, fearing Tiger would abandon them for bigger name companies, decided it was time to give their shoes a new name and symbol, and separated from Tiger. Knight hired Caroline Davidson to create the now famous "Nike Swoosh" logo for $35. The first Nike shoes debuted at the Olympic Trials in Eugene Oregon in 1972, with Steve Prefontaine and their first endorsement. Prefontaine\'s fame caused word of Nike products to spread throughout the running world like wildfire, greatly expanding its empire and the demand for Nike products. Bowerman\'s newly designed "Waffle Trainers" became the best-selling training shoe in the country in 1974. In the late \'70\'s, Blue Ribbon Sports officially became Nike, doubling revenue each year from $1 million to $270 million in sales. In the early 80\'s, Knight decided it was time for Nike to go public. Since then, its stock has increased in value from $2.94 from 1986 to $44.87 a share in 2002.


The Influence of Nike: Humble Beginnings to Present Day


Many critical junctions throughout Nike\'s history have helped it rocket into its present position. The actions and ideas effectively implemented by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight helped the company to grow. Bill Bowerman\'s constant desire for better quality running shoes for his athletes not only led to his invention of the revolutionary "Waffle Trainer" (the waffle-shaped treads inspired by his wife\'s waffle iron), but also heavily influenced Knight in his search for marketing strategies. Bowerman\'s coaching yielded many athletes that helped Knight publicize Nike products. His skill as a coach also led to Nike\'s reputation as a company that realistically knew the needs of a runner. Bowerman\'s book Jogging: A Physical Fitness Program for All Ages heavily influenced the conception of fitness-oriented consumers with an urge to buy running products (Katz 65). He helped create variations within Nike products, and a market to sell those variations. His underlying concept of improving the performance of serious athletes greatly influenced the decisions made to the company\'s products.


Nike would never have become the company it is now