“Play by the rules. But be fierce.”
Start the business
Like Fred Smith and the origins of FedEx, Philip Knight’s first ideas about what would become Nike Inc. came to him while he was at
school. While working on his masters at Stanford, Knight – an accomplished runner during his undergraduate studies at the University
of Oregon – wrote an essay describing a plan to overcome Adidas’ monopoly in the running shoe market. He thought the way
to realize this was to employ cheap Japanese labor to make a shoe that was both better and cheaper.
The plan was implemented shortly after graduation in 1962. Knight traveled to Japan to meet with the leaders of Onitsuka Tiger.
Co., a manufacturer of fake Adidas runners, claiming to be the head of a company called Blue Ribbon Sports (which did not
exist, except in his mind). Knight convinced Tiger to export his shoes to the United States via Blue Ribbon and had samples sent to them
so that his associates can inspect them.
Knight paid for the samples with his father’s money. He sent a few pairs to Bill Bowerman, Knight’s track coach of his days at
the University of Oregon, which took an interest in the company. Knight and Bowerman became partners and invested $ 500 each in the
purchase of 200 pairs of Tigers. Blue Ribbon Sports was formed and Knight began attending high school track and field events
sell the shoes from the trunk of his car.
Sales were $ 3 million when Knight chose to dissolve the partnership with Tiger in the early 1970s. The Blue Ribbon began
producing her own line and started selling her Nike line (named after the Greek goddess of victory) in 1972. These first Nike shoes
were adorned with the now internationally recognizable swoosh logo – which Knight had ordered for $ 35 – and had the
Traction enhancing “waffle soles” designed by Bowerman while watching his wife use a waffle iron.
Building an empire
The success of Blue Ribbon (renamed Nike in 1978) throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s can be largely attributed to Knight’s marketing.
strategy. He figured it was best not to push his Nike shoes through advertising, but rather to let expert athletes endorse his product.
Fortune smiled on Knight as his partner Bill Bowerman became the coach of the United States Olympic team and many of the top players.
of the team decided to put Nike on their feet. Of course, when runners performed well, the shoes they wore were
Highlighted. Brash and unconventional American record holder Steve Prefontaine became the first spokesperson for Nike footwear.
After tennis player John McEnroe injured his ankle, he started wearing a Nike three-quarter-length shoe, and sales of this
the brand has grown from 10,000 pairs to over a million. As Knight had hoped, the support of famous athletes brought success to the
business. Knight also capitalized on a jogging craze and, through clever marketing, persuaded consumers that they shouldn’t be
wear the best the best in the world.
The Air Jordans helped the company continue to thrive into the 1980s. In their first year, the shoe grossed over $ 100 million.
Knight achieved his initial goal of replacing Adidas as the world’s number one shoe manufacturer in 1986. At that time, total sales
had exceeded $ 1 billion. However, neglecting the growing interest in aerobics shoes, Nike is facing a few
Through issues and controversy
Sales fell 18% between 1986 and 1987 as trendy and stylish aerobics shoes from Reebok became in high demand. Knight had to
recognize that the technical achievements of the Nike shoe would not satisfy those who place appearance above performance. the
Nike Air was Knight’s answer to Reebok. He revived sales and put Nike back to number one in 1990.
The corporate monster it had become, Nike was the object of public outrage in 1990 when stories of teenagers being killed for their
The Nike have started to float. It was believed that Nike was promoting its shoes with too much force.
That same year, Jesse Jackson attacked Nike for not having African Americans on its board or among its vice presidents, despite
the fact that its clientele was largely black. Jackson’s Nike boycott lasted until a black member of the board was appointed.
There has also been controversy over whether Knight’s use of Asian factory workers as cheap labor constitutes exploitation.
Despite all the bad press that was put on Nike during these events, Nike shoes continued to sell well. And in
1993, The Sporting News named Knight “the most powerful man in sport” despite being neither a player nor a manager. knight
mastery of marketing should be praised and seen as a major factor in its impressive successes.