Just do it: Nike’s Incredible Rise to Power

Just do it: Nike’s Incredible Rise to Power

Nike’s Mission: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.
*”If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
Bill Bowerman, co-founder of Nike

Making an Impression

Nike’s made lasting impressions on our lives for nearly 50 years and has skyrocketed to become one of the premier shoe and apparel companies in the world. One reason is powerful and consistent branding.

Branding is the essence of something that can’t be touched or defined. It’s turning the same into something different. It’s more than a logo, symbol, or design – it’s reputation. Branding is a never ending marathon to stay current, visible, and wise; in Nike’s case – a commitment to stay unstoppable.

Nike began its jumbled roots in 1964, when Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight – University of Oregon track coach and team member, respectively – started a shoe business called Blue Ribbon Sports, using an initial investment of $300.

They sold shoes aimed at long distance runners out of the backs of their cars – shoes imported from a company named Onitsuka in Japan. They did well, and soon identified their competition to be German shoe companies like Adidas, which dominated the market at the time. The problem with that though was: German shoes weren’t made with long distance runners in mind.

In 1966, Blue Ribbon Sports had become successful enough to open their own retail store. Five years later, their relationship with Onitsuka faded and the new famous “swoosh” logo was officially introduced for Blue Ribbon Shoes. The swoosh stood for the wings of Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory, and turned out to be a fitting new name for the brand.

Nike’s logo was easy on the eyes and easy on the mind. To this day it is one of the most iconic symbols in the world of sports and fashion ever created – all for a $35 investment from a local graphic designer.

Nike also had a series of breakthroughs catapulting them to the next level, starting with the U.S. Olympic trials in 1972, the same year they parted with Onitsuka. First came the Olympic marathon, where four out of the first seven finishers wore Nike long distance shoes. Nike gained traction and backed up its claims of being the best, fastest long distance running shoe on the market. Their desire to inspire every athlete in the world started to take shape as the “shoe of champions” finally made its mark.

And then:

  • In 1978, Nike signed John McEnroe, one of the greatest tennis players in the world, thus growing the tennis business and showing Nike’s abilities to branch into other sports
  • 1983: Nike started selling apparel
  • 1985: Nike signed rookie basketball player Michael Jordan, their biggest signing in history, and released “Air Jordan’s,” the most well-known brand in Nike’s history
  • 1996: Nike signed Tiger Woods immediately after he turned pro, and changed the game and public’s perception of golf
  • 2006: Nike teamed up with Apple to produce Nike+Ipod, a device that measures a runner’s performance

Advertising and Marketing:

Without marketing, a consumer brand – especially a parity product – simply can’t survive. Nike’s first print ad, titled: “There is no Finish Line,” is still successful today, and still marketed on T-shirts.

Whether consciously or subconsciously, Nike’s advertising allows for interpretation. The work thrives on self-contemplation: motivating, stimulating and inspiring, mostly from strong images with limited text, Nike tugs at the athlete within. Their broadcast is just as bold as their print, and their “supporting athletic cast” is nothing short of remarkable.

Nike’s mission is to bring inspiration and innovation to every person in the world. Everything they offer is an extension of that promise. When you put on a Nike shoe, you feel inspired, motivated, and ready to take things to the next level.

Nike’s worth is now close to $25 billion, with 44,000 employees in 160 countries. It’s hard to fight the reality of these breakthroughs as major turning points in Nike’s success.

The brand still works its magic today the way it did from day one: winners, seasoned vets, inspirational athletes, and great, innovative products. Nike has claimed the market, and most of the top-notch athletes right along with it.

Just do it.

This article is written from the personal perspective of Andrew Merryman. The opinions and views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Miller Group Advertising.

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