Nike is one of the most recognizable brands around the world. I don’t know anyone who can’t tell you what company is associated with the “Swoosh”. Nike videos instill inspiration and their video campaign “Find Your Greatness.” is no exception. Nike hasn’t always been considered great, they had to grow from a small business to an internationally known company.
Nike’s path to greatness began in the 1950’s with Bill Bowerman’s desire to make a better running shoe. As the University of Oregon track and field coach he wanted to create an edge that would help his team and wasn’t happy with the way running shoes were designed. To get every advantage over the competition, he began designing and making shoes for his athletes.
In 1964 Bowerman became partners with Phil Knight, a former track runner at University of Oregon. Together they started Blue Ribbon Sports, a distributor of the Japanese running shoes called Tiger (known today as ASICs). Bowerman would literally tear apart running shoes to see how they were made and if he could make them better.
A year later, Jeff Johnson, former runner and associate to Knight became the first full time employee for Blue Ribbon Sports. Six years after that, in 1971, he developed some early shoe designs along with the name Nike. That was when they selected their famous “Swoosh” logo, which debuted at the U.S. Track and Field Trials.
At that competition a pair of shoes sparked the interest of dozens of runners. No one had seen a running shoe like this one before. The design’s inspiration came from Bowerman’s wife’s waffle iron. It was a lightweight shoe with a series of nubs on the outsole for traction.
It wasn’t until the 1980’s when Nike really took off. They released their new basketball shoe in 1985 for Michael Jordan, a rookie at the time. Three years later in 1988 Nike began their famous “Just do it.” campaign focused on a new cross-training shoe that became a best seller around the world. In the 1990’s Nike was known around the world in various different sports and has been an industry leader ever since.
After reading Nike’s “History & Heritage” I picked up three keys to find your greatness from entrepreneur and co-founder Bill Bowerman:
Don’t Take No For An Answer
Bowerman was a nationally respected track and field coach. He had ideas for shoe innovations and tried to get them implemented by established footwear manufacturers. He was turned down. He could have given up there; but instead he began using his ideas to design and make his own running shoes.
Who is your customer?
Nike didn’t start out making shoes and sports equipment for basketball, football or even soccer. Bowerman started with one demographic— professional runners. He designed and made his shoes with them in mind and even had them field-test them. To be successful, you need to have specific products or services targeted at a specific demographic; instead of just marketing to everyone.
Don’t Give Up
Nike’s brand wasn’t made overnight. It started off with a lone distributor and fought its way to the top of their industry, eventually becoming a leader in sports athletic equipment. Nike was born out of the ashes of Blue Ribbon Sports. It took nearly 20 years before Nike started to become an international industry leader.
Today Nike is still one of the top innovators within the sports industry. They design and manufacture all sorts of athletic products, which are used by many professional and recreational sports teams around the world. Despite their humble beginnings, Nike recently became the official sponsor of the NFL in 2012.
Why hasn’t Nike been pushed aside by one of their competitors? President and CEO Mark Parker said it best, “At NIKE Inc. we run a complete offense, and it’s based on a core commitment to innovation. That’s how we stay opportunistic, serve the athlete, reward our shareholders, and continue to lead our industry.”
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Mike Alder is a University of Utah business marketing student and marketing specialist at Lendio. Passionate about entrepreneurship, small businesses, and inbound marketing. Mike shows his passion by sharing stories of successful entrepreneurs and companies with small business owners on the Lendio blog. He makes these big success stories easy-to-apply in simple and easy to read language for the everyday small business owner and entrepreneur.