Nike Inc., located in the Portland, Oregon suburb of Beaverton, has about as humble an origin as any international corporation. The company started as a partnership between University of Oregon track athlete Phil Knight and his coach, Bill Bowerman. They formed Blue Ribbon Sports, Inc. (BRS), and started selling a Japanese-made running shoe (which would become ASICS) out of the trunk of Knight's car at track meets. Millions of shoes and billions of dollars later, Nike is the best-selling athletic shoe on the planet and has become a major player in sports apparel, as well as equipment ranging from golf clubs to hockey sticks. But as familiar as the Nike brand is, there may be a few things you didn't know or forgot along the way.
Nike Hits the Ground Running
After primarily serving as a distributor for a Japanese running shoe manufacturer since 1968, BRS, the company that would become Nike, launched its first original shoe with trademark Swoosh in 1971. It was a soccer shoe.
The Story of the Swoosh
When BRS decided to market a shoe called the Nike (after the Greek goddess of victory), the company hired a Portland State University graphic arts student to come up with a logo. Carolyn Davidson was paid $35 in 1971 for her Swoosh design, now one of the most recognizable corporate logos on Earth.
Nike Soars With Jordan
Nike signed basketball superstar Michael Jordan in 1984 before he started winning championships. In 1985, Nike introduced the Air Jordan sneaker, which was originally banned from the NBA because it didn't contain enough of the color white. The controversy, Jordan's rising popularity and the air-cushion soles helped propel Air Jordan and Nike into never before seen status for a sneaker or shoe company.
Nike Goes Golfing
Nike entered the golf game in 1986, just a year after introducing the Air Jordan basketball sneaker. The company started manufacturing golf shoes that focused on athletic performance. Tiger Woods became a Nike golf apparel endorser in 1996, shortly after he became a professional. The announcement came at the Greater Milwaukee Open.
Nike Joins the Billionaires' Club
Nike sales topped the $1 billion mark in 1986. By 2004, revenues topped $13 billion.
Nike Buys Up Other Brands
In 1988, Nike purchased the shoe company Cole Haan. In 2003, Nike was successful in bidding for bankrupt former rival Converse for $305 million.