History of the Nike Brand

Air Max Ones

Nike’s “Just Do it” and its famous swoosh logo are two of the most recognisable pieces of branding in the modern world. Even though we know Nike as the global leader in sportswear, it’s always good to look back because it started out as a different company.

How Nike Started

Nike was actually founded as Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964 by Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman. Knight was a student and a middle-distance runner with at the time and Bowerman being the coach, was not satisfied with just improving his athletes through training regimes. Instead he took it upon himself in his spare time to look how to improve performance via the apparel that his athletes wore.

In 1965 after Knight had finished his MBA and completing a paper about running shoes being manufactured in Asia he and Bowerman went on and imported running shoes and sold them in the United States. However, it was through Bowerman’s persistent innovative thinking, that in 1971 Nike was born. Taking unusual inspiration from his wife’s waffle iron he developed a lightweight running shoe which was named the ‘waffle shoe’ due to the waffle like sole. The running shoes would go on and be used to break several American running track records.


Original Nike Waffle Running shoe

In case you didn’t know the Nike swoosh logo was designed by Carolyn Davidson who a university student and was given the huge lump sum of $35 for her efforts. However not to worry, she was later given stock in Nike, which came to a value of over $500,000.


Original Nike Swoosh Logo by Carolyn Davidson

(image credits: Firstversions)

Nike Athletes & Endorsements

Probably the most significant reason as to why we know Nike as the biggest sportswear brand, is because they have some of the most iconic sports superstars endorsing the brand. Such names include: Tiger Woods, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lebron James, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and most notable of all Michael Jordan, who subsequently has his own Jordan Brand through Nike. As we can see from these names they are athletes who are at the top of their sports and are icons to many young and aspiring sports people.

Nike Sweatshops Saga

Even though Nike has pushed sports apparel and sport in general forward it hasn’t been all plain sailing. For long periods of time since the 1970s even through the early 2000s, there have been several accusations of Nike using sweatshops and exploiting cheap labour markets. In other words, products not being ethically made. On many occasions as Nike didn’t actually own the factory so it pointed directly at the factory owners. Nowadays, Nike implements a strict code of ethics for fair working conditions throughout its factories.

Nike & Lifestyle Fashion

Sports lifestyle fashion (athleisure) is very much a thing now but also sneakers have become a commodity. With fashion tastes in sport changing, having been helped with new entrants into the market, the big players like Nike and others have really had to take note and diversify.

Also Nike has branched out into the skate/snowboard world and has had huge sneaker collaborations with the likes of Supreme and Off White. Not only that but Nike has done several collaborations with rappers to stay on trends music superstars act as social barometer of fashion styles.

The Round Up

Nike is the biggest sportswear brand in the world and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future even with the up and coming new entrants into the market. With revenues touching $50billion and its huge campus headquarters based in Beaverton, Oregon, Nike will continue to have the best athletes on it roster and be at the forefront of sportswear technology. That said, you have to give it to Nike as the company does bring out some of the best advertising campaigns too and for me my favourite was during the 2000s with the stick man freestyler. Do you remember those ads?


Let me know if you feel Nike will continue to dominate or if you think one day they may fall from the top spot?!

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