The History of Nike

Nike was founded in 1964 by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight. From a mere handshake, each man ended up investing $500 to import Tiger shoes from Japan and sell them in the United States. At that time, German shoe brands were the dominating brands that were preferred by athletes all over the world. The duo hence founded Blue Ribbon Sports, which would later become the successful sporting goods company we know as Nike.

The success story of Nike is worth a listen for anyone who’s interesting in sporting goods or how businesses run. We’ve hence chalked out an outline which would help one get the gist of this successful company and how it all started:

The Beginning

Bill Bowerman was a nationally-renowned track and field coach at the University of Oregon. He was a track enthusiast and worked to improve the performance of his athletes. Phil Knight was a runner and was enrolled in Bowerman’s track program. He then went on to get an MBA from Stanford. Both Bowerman and Knight felt that shoe technology could be improved. Knight even wrote a paper on how quality shoes could be manufactured in Japan that would compete with the most popular brands of that time.

Bill Bowerman was actively pouring his efforts into developing safe, comfortable, and inexpensive shoes in order to improve the performance of his students. While his initial combinations weren’t successful, Phil Knight’s paper helped make the dream a reality. Knight suggested his ideas to several investors but was forced to start work on his own after all. When he approached his old coach, Bowerman convinced him that a partnership was best for both individuals.

A Maturing company

As the company started to mature, it had its own storefront and a large number of mail-order sales. The founder then began to realize that their future could be in manufacturing, not just direct sales and distribution. Thus began their foray into Nike, the shoe design and manufacturing company. At that time, they also inaugurated the famous swoosh logo. One might say that there are at least two keys to their ultimate success.

The first key was that during this time, Bowerman and Knight kept tinkering with shoe technology. They never stopped pondering upon how a shoe could be improved. When the best running shoes were performing at their best, it would automatically improve the performance of the athlete. They were thus able to come up with several new designs, which were used at local trial heats in Oregon.

The second key is related to how we think of Nike today, with the likes of Federer and Jordan in their list of endorsing celebrities. The company knew they needed an athlete to endorse and promote their new shoes and technology. In the beginning, they managed to find this in Steve Prefontaine, who had great success with their shoes. While wearing their merchandise, the athlete performed marvelously well at the Munich Olympics and was also featured in Sports Illustrated. You can also check out the best airforce 1 outfits to wear with Nike shoes.

Some Challenges

In the 1980s, the company faced some ups and downs. Aerobics became a huge phenomenon (just check out Jazzercize – Move Your Boogie Body) and there were specific shoes required for that kind of movement. Nike could have had a great chance here to manufacture and market shoes for aerobics, but the company missed that chance by a long shot.

Fortunately, Nike was able to make a comeback soon enough. They developed and released their “airbag” technology, with cool, fashionable designs and clear soles. This release was coupled with the cross-training shoe and the venerable “Bo Knows” ads. The 80s also saw the rise of the brand which we all associate with Nike – “Jordan”. Michael Jordan Air Nike’s have been one of the most enduring and well-known brands of all time.

The Expansion

In the 1990s and 2000s, Nike began to expand to clothing, Soccer, golf and other areas in the sports world began to be part of the Nike domain. Today, we see the Nike swoosh everywhere, from workout clothes to casual wear, fitness technology and, of course, athletic shoes. More recently, though, Nike has also suffered several blows to its image for its troubled athletes, including Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. Still, there’s no denying that the company’s reach is impressive and their sponsorships reach deep into the sports world.

Acquiring Companies

In addition to acquiring celebrities for drawing in customers, Nike has also managed to acquire several small companies in order to further their success. They’ve also sold off several small companies in order to keep their operations smooth.

For now, though, Converse and Hurley International are among the main subsidiaries of the giant Nike. There’s even a separate and unique line of athletic shoes for tennis, basketball, and football players. Olympic athletes are also included in this lot!

So much effort and certain lucky decisions have made Nike what it is today. It now employs almost 50,000 staff overall, if not more. The brand alone has a value of almost $10 billion, with the profits reaching around hundreds of millions of dollars every single year.

Nike employs more than 44,000 people and its brand alone is valued at nearly $10 billion. Nike’s success has been the result of the constant innovation and timely investments that have resulted in Nike making profits worth hundreds of million dollars every year.


While Nike may have had a lot of fluctuations since its first launch, the brand is definitely here to stay for quite a while longer. The success story of this brand is innovative and clever, blazing the trails for many modern sporting goods companies. Today, there are many Nike purists who would only function when decked out in the company’s offerings.

Another sign of success for Nike could be the rise of copies and knockoffs. Some markets provide many sporting goods that have a similar or even identical logo to the Nike one. However, we’d have to purchase from the original brand if we want the warranties and quality that come with it!