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History of Nike

History of Nike

Nike has been a leader in the fitness industry for a number of decades now and the company has had an immense amount of success during this time! We are going to have a look at some of the greatest achievements in Nike’s history here.


The forefront founders: Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman.

American entrepreneur Phil Knight during his studies at Stanford in the 1960s wrote an assignment on manufacturing high-tech but low cost shoes in Japan to be able to compete with the leading German shoe market.  This inspired Knight to import shoes from Japan and make plans to sell them. He sent some of these shoes to his former athletics coach Bill Bowerman for him to rate. Bowerman thought highly of them and in fact joined up with Knight as a shoe distributer to form the brand Nike. Bowerman improved and experimented with shoe designs whilst Knight managed the business affaires in their company.

Notable Nike Highlights of the 60s

  • 1964 Nike was founded but was then known as Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS).
  • 1964 BRS retailed Onitsuka Tiger Japanese shoes (today known as ASICS) after his travels in Japan
  • 1965 BRS sales had doubled compared to the last year and were at $20,000.
  • 1966 The first BRS Sports shop opened in Santa Monica in California.
  • 1968 One of Bowerman’s designs led to a new running shoe being created called the ‘Nike Cortez’. It quickly became a best seller and is still an iconic and popular design today.
  • 1969 Steve Prefontaine, an American track athlete who set several U.S track records, became Nike’s first brand ambassador. By wearing Nike, he helped to portray a trusted running brand.


Branching out and standing out!

Nike expanded and Knight and Bowerman decided to create their own footwear instead of selling for Tiger. The iconic Nike Swoosh became a registered trademark. Nike also launched an advertising campaign and the first advert was called ‘There is no finish line’.                     

Nike also came up with a popular lighter weight training shoes that had a sole with a waffle-type appearance to give athletes more traction. The waffle idea came after Bowerman had waffles for breakfast! Bowerman then went on to make the first Nike shoes in a waffle Iron. The shoes were a huge hit and Nike stood out against the competition that already existed. 

Notable Nike Highlights of the 70s

  • 1971 Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student, designed the Nike Swoosh for $35!
  • 1971 BRS officially became Nike.
  • 1972 Bowerman's waffle shoe led to the creation of a ‘Moon Shoe’. It was so-called because the waffle appearance resembled the footprints of astronauts who went to the moon.
  • 1974 The Nike ‘Waffle’ Shoe officially started selling.
  • 1979 Nike, with the expert help of inventor Frank Rudy used ‘Air Technology’ in shoes. This was gas-filled pouches in the sole of the running shoes to give the user extra padding.
  • 1979 The ‘Tailwind’ Shoe is the first Nike shoe to use ‘Air Technology’.
  • 1979 The first selection of Nike clothing was launched.


International expansion and rapid growth!

The growth that Nike experienced was very significant during this decade.Soon Nike’s brand had grown very popular across fitness fanatics and fashionatas and there was a huge increase in sales. Nike decided to do an initial public offering of shares of stock.  

Furthermore, Nike also decided to use Wieden+Kennedy as an advertising agency to further promote their products. Nike became the number one supplier for athletic shoes in America. An important part of Nike’s development was by having Michael Jordan on board as a brand representative. The company soon changed from a U.S. shoe distributor to a worldwide brand.

Notable Nike Highlights of the 80s

  • 1980 Nike had got 50% of the market share in the U.S. sports shoe market.
  • 1981 Nike International was created to get overseas sales going.
  • 1984 Michael Jordan entered an endorsement contract and his signature shoe, ‘Air Jordan’, appears.
  • 1986 Nike’s revenue went over $1 billion for the first time.
  • 1987 The ‘Nike Air Max Shoe’ was introduced, which used even more ‘Air’ cushioning. For the first time it can be seen at the shoe’s side. This was the first of many Air Max shoe designs.
  • 1988 Nike’sadvertiserDan Wieden came up with the ‘Just Do It’ slogan. This slogan is still today recognized as one of the top slogans.


More developments, contracts and further expansion!

Nike opened stores across the US and internationally, including England and Germany. By the end of the decade Knight went to great endeavors to have firm rules for manufacturing facilities used by Nike. This included stricter factory monitoring and minimum age requirements.

Notable Nike Highlights of the 90s

  • 1990 First NikeTown shop opened in Portland, Oregon.
  • 1991 Nike’s revenue reached 3 billion.
  • 1991 Nike's now visible ‘Air’ shoes had enabled it to overtake its biggest rival in the U.S market – Reebok.
  • 1992 Nike focussed on women’s shoes and clothing and created a $13 million print and television advertising pitch to promote this.
  • 1996 Nike signed Tiger Woods who became the ambassador for Nike Golf.
  • 1999 Nike began selling its products directly to customers via its online website.
  • 1999 Bill Bowerman, the co-founder of Nike died at Christmas, aged 88.
  • 1994 Nike formed links with English football and signs a kit deal with Arsenal.
  • 1996 Nike signed a deal with the Brazilian national football team with the hope to become the most recognized and leading football brand in the world.


Shoes galore, and even more styles!

This wasanother busy decade where Nike regularly launched new editions of their iconic training shoes. For example extra cushioning and slower impact was added to reduce injury in the ‘Air’ shoes. Sales reached an all time high. International sales excelled and Nike was really valued as a global company.

Notable Nike Highlights of the 2000s

  • 2000 Nike ‘Shox Athletic Shoe Technology’ introduced and hugely popular across the world.
  • 2003 International sales exceeded U.S. sales for the first time ever.
  • 2003 Nike acquired a major competitor Converse.
  • 2004 Knight stepped down as CEO but continued as chairman.
  • 2004 William Perez became CEO of Nike.
  • 2005 Nike launched ‘Air Jordan XX’, the 20th edition of the iconic ‘Air Jordan’ shoe.
  • 2005 Nike signed Rafael Nadal.
  • 2006 Mark Parker who started as a shoe designer for Nike, became CEO.
  • 2007 Nike together with Apple released the Nike+iPod sports kit. This permitted runners to record and track their exercise.
  • 2012 The annual revenue was more than $24 billion.
  • 2012 Nike introduced the ‘Flyknit Shoe’. This was a strong but very lightweight shoe knitted by a machine in one single piece!
  • 2014 Nike was valued at $14 billion!
  • 2015 Nike signed an 8-year deal with the NBA to become the official kit supplier for the league. This will start this year (2017).
  • 2016Knight stepped down as chairman of Nike.
  • 2017 Nike plans to introduce a plus size range of clothing.


Nike has become a global phenomenon, which includes a huge variety of sports such as athletics, baseball, cricket, football, golf and tennis.

Bowerman’s passion to try and improve products and Knight’s business innovation have led to making Nike one of the most profitable and known companies in the world.  

Nike has been so successful by continual innovative ideas and timely investments that have resulted in Nike remaining a leading brand across the world as well as making huge profits every year.

Did you know…?

  1. Knight originally wanted to name Nike ‘Dimension 6’. Nike’s first employee, Jeff Johnson chose the name ‘Nike’. It actually comes from a Greek word ‘ny-kee’, which means ‘victory’!
  2. The largest Nike store in the world is not in America but is in fact in the UK in London. The store has three floors and cost 10.5 million pounds to build!
  3.  Nike employs more than 44,000 people!

Can any of you readers add anything else? Only some of the successes of Nike are mentioned above. The list is endless…!


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