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Nike Brand History

With innovative designs, a strong workforce, and state of the art manufacturing companies, it is no surprise Nike continues to attract people all over the world to their world class athletic gear.

This great company stemmed from two visionary men, Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman. Knight ran at the University of Oregon under Coach Bowerman. Upon graduation, Knight went to Stanford, where he earned his MBA in finance. His boldness led him to become a U.S. distributor for Tiger Shoes, which was a product of the Onitsuka Co. in Kobe, Japan. Knight sent several samples of these shoes to Bowerman, and was surprised with the answer he received. Bowerman had offered Knight his partnership, and with it, his ideas for faster and lighter shoes.

Both invested $500 and "Blue Ribbon Sports" was created. Bowerman commenced his designs on the Tiger shoes, hoping to design a shoe of his own. With full time jobs, Knight and Bowerman needed someone to manage the company. Along comes Jeff Johnson, whom Knight had met at Stanford.

Johnson was a key asset to the company as he was the one who conjured up brochures, print ads, marketing materials, and even catalogue photographs. His design of a mail order system, one which he managed shipping and handling, made buying Nike shoes user friendly. Many people may not know that Johnson was the one who came up with the name "Nike" in 1971.

As the relationship between Blue Ribbon Sports and Onitsuka began to close, Nike's founders decided it was time to manufacture their own brand of athletic shoes. They chose "Swoosh," a brand designed by Portland State University's graphic design student, Carolyn Davidson.

One specific shoe designed by Bowerman made a big impression on athletes. It featured an outsole that had waffle-type nubs for traction, but were somehow lighter than ordinary running shoes.

The new Nike line was ready just in time for the 1972 U.S. Track and Field Trials, held in Eugene, Oregon. With a new logo, a new name, and new design, Nike needed only advertisement. So what better marketing than Steve Prefontaine. With his undefeated home streak and national exposure on magazines such as Sports illustrated, Pre was the perfect figurehead for Nike.

Pre's tragic death at the age of 24 left many in tears, and cut short what many believed would have been an unparalleled career. Knight often spoke as Pre as being "the soul of Nike."

By the 1980s, Nike moved to Nike Air technology, and completed its IPO, which made them a publicly traded company. In 1983-1984, Knight stepped down as president, but remained as CEO and chairman of the board.

Due to miscalculations on the aerobics boom, Nike fell from its poll position as the shoe industry's leader. Thanks to a new signature shoe attributed to a young NBA star named Michael Jordan, Nike came back stronger than ever.

In 1987, Nike designed a new shoe, different from its competitors. The Nike Air Max, first of its kind to feature visible Nike Air bags became a quick hit. Nike's memorable TV ad with the Beatles' "Revolution" soundtrack, tagline "Just Do It", and sports figurehead Bo Jackson helped explode the demand for this new, cross-training shoe. By 1989, Nike had regained its title as an industry leader, and has never relinquished that title again.

Nike continues to design new shoes, and dominate the shoe industry. They have endorsed many athletes, and managed to revolutionize athletic footwear.