Before there was the Swoosh, before there was Nike, there were two visionary men who pioneered a revolution in athletic footwear that redefined the industry.Bill Bowerman was a nationally respected track and field coach at the University of Oregon, who was constantly seeking ways to give his athletes a competitive advantage. He experimented with different track surfaces, re-hydration drinks and – most importantly – innovations in running shoes. But the established footwear manufacturers of the 1950s ignored the ideas he tried to offer them, so Bowerman began cobbling shoes for his runners.Phil Knight was a talented middle-distance runner from Portland who enrolled at Oregon in the fall of 1955 and competed for Bowermans track program. Upon graduating from Oregon, Knight earned his MBA in finance from Stanford University, where he wrote a paper that proposed quality running shoes could be manufactured in Japan that would compete with more established German brands.More
But his letters to manufacturers in Japan and Asia went unanswered, so Knight took a chance.He made a cold-call on the Onitsuka Co. in Kobe, Japan, and persuaded the manufacturer of Tiger shoes to make Knight a distributor of Tiger running shoes in the United States. When the first set of sample shoes arrived, Knight sent several pairs to Bowerman, hoping to make a sale. Instead, Bowerman stunned Knight by offering to become his partner, and to provide his footwear design ideas to Tiger.
They shook hands to form Blue Ribbon Sports, pledged $500 each and placed their first order of 300 pairs of shoes in January 1964. Knight sold the shoes out of the trunk of his green Plymouth Valiant, while Bowerman began ripping apart Tiger shoes to see how he could make them lighter and better, and enlisted his University of Oregon runners to wear-test his creations. In essence, the foundation for what would become Nike had been established.But Bowerman and Knight each had full-time jobs - Bowerman at Oregon and Knight at a Portland accounting firm - so they needed someone to manage the growing requirements of Blue Ribbon Sports. Enter Jeff Johnson, whom Knight had met at Stanford. A runner himself, Johnson became the first full-time employee of Blue Ribbon Sports in 1965, and quickly became an invaluable utility man for the start-up company.
Johnson created the first product brochures, print ads and marketing materials, and even shot the photographs for the companys catalogues. He established a mail-order system, opened the first BRS retail store (located in Santa Monica, Calif.) and managed shipping/receiving. He also designed several early Nike shoes, and even conjured up the name Nike in 1971.Around this same time, the relationship between BRS and Onitsuka was falling apart. Knight and Bowerman were ready to make the jump from being a footwear distributor to designing and manufacturing their own brand of athletic shoes.They selected a brand mark today known internationally as the “Swoosh,” which was created by a graphic design student at Portland State University named Carolyn Davidson. The new Nike line of footwear debuted in 1972, in time for the U.S. Track & Field Trials, which were held in Eugene, Ore.One particular pair of shoes made a very different impression – literally – on the dozen or so runners who tried them. They featured a new innovation that Bowerman drew from his wifes waffle iron – an outsole that had waffle-type nubs for traction but were lighter than traditional training shoes.With a new logo, a new name and a new design innovation, what BRS now needed was an athlete to endorse and elevate the new Nike line. Fittingly for the company founded by Oregonians, they found such a young man from the small coastal town of Coos Bay, Ore. His name: Steve Prefontaine.Prefontaine electrified the packed stands of Oregons Hayward Field during his college career from 1969 to 1973. He never lost any race at his home track over the one-mile distance, and quickly gained national exposure thanks to cover stories on magazines like Sports Illustrated and his fourth-place finish in 1972 in the 5,000m in Munich.Pre challenged Bowerman, Johnson and BRS in general to stretch their creative talents. In turn, he became a powerful ambassador for BRS and Nike after he graduated from Oregon, making numerous appearances on behalf of BRS and sending pairs of Nike shoes to prospective runners along with personal notes of encouragement.His tragic death at age 24 in 1975 cut short what many believed would have been an unparalleled career in track – at the time of his death, he held American records in seven distances from 2,000m to 10,000m. But Prefontaine’s fiery spirit lives on within Nike; Knight has often said that Pre is the “soul of Nike.”
By the mid-1980s, Nike had slipped from its position as the industry leader, in part because the company had badly miscalculated on the aerobics boom, giving upstart competitors an almost completely open field to develop the business. Fortunately, the debut of a new signature shoe for an NBA rookie by the name of Michael Jordan in 1985 helped bolster Nike’s bottom line.In 1987, Nike readied a major product and marketing campaign designed to regain the industry lead and differentiate Nike from its competitors. The focal point was the Air Max, the first Nike footwear to feature Nike Air bags that were visible. The campaign was supported by a memorable TV ad whose soundtrack was the original Beatles’ recording of Revolution. A year later, Nike built on its momentum from the ‘Revolution’ campaign by launching a broad yet empowering series of ads with the tagline “Just do it.” The series included three ads with a young two-sport athlete named Bo Jackson, who espoused the benefits of a new cross-training shoe.In 1989, Nikes cross-training business exploded, thanks in part to the incredibly popular “Bo Knows” ad campaign. By the end of the decade, Nike had regained its position as the industry leader, the first and only time a company in the athletic footwear/apparel industry has accomplished such a feat. Nike has never relinquished that position again.
Nike rang in the new millennium with a new footwear cushioning system called Nike Shox, which debuted during Sydney in 2000. The development of Nike Shox culminated more than 15 years of perseverance and dedication, as Nike designers stuck with their idea until technology could catch up. The result was a cushioning and stability system worthy of joining Nike Air as the industrys gold standard. Just as Nike products have evolved, so has Nike approach to marketing. Today, Nike continues to seek new and innovative ways to develop superior athletic products, and creative methods to communicate directly with our consumers. The company has continued to expand in new ways, including strong growth in China and a deal to become the official sponsor of the National Football League (NFL) beginning in 2012.At an investor meeting at its world headquarters in June 2011, NIKE, Inc. announced an increase to its fiscal 2015 revenue target to a new range of $28-30 billion, up from its previous target of $27 billion announced in May 2010. The company also increased its fiscal 2015 revenue target for the NIKE Brand to $24-25 billion, up from its previous target of $23 billion.President and CEO Mark Parker said: “At NIKE, Inc. we run a complete offense, and its based on a core commitment to innovation. Thats how we stay opportunistic, serve the athlete, reward our shareholders, and continue to lead our industry.