Founded by William Bowerman and Philip Knight in 1964, Nike is now the worlds most diverse and largest selling sportwear manufacturer in the world.
Founders: William Bowerman, Philip Knight
Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
Originally founded as the Blue Ribbon Sports company Nike Co. came into existence in 1972 taking its name from the Greek goddess of victory. Originally an American based distributor for Japanese footwear brand Onitsuka Tiger, Nike’s now world famous ‘swoosh’ trademark came into existence in 1971. With new direction the brand began to produce footwear in 1971, and specific marketing associated the brand with sportsmen such as Ilie Nastase, appearing to suggest the brands edgy and competitive nature. Continuing through the 1970’s to establish itself as a sportswear brand was essential for Nike, an aim which was highly successful as boot and kit making for soccer took its popularity for the first time outside of the USA.
The 1980’s saw Nike making efforts to move away from a solely sportswear focus. The movement which hip hop created in the USA saw the emergence of a new youth culture. Hip Hop group Run-DMC are today regarded as pioneers of this movement which brought sportswear to the forefront highlighted in their 1985 single ‘My Adidas’. Nike therefore were quick to make an entry into this market and arguably have become the most successful company in doing so. The diffusion brand of Air Jordan partnered Nike with Michael Jordan, the man many believe to be the greatest Basketball player of all time. Subsequently, the player who inspired a generation of youngsters not only brought Basketball to the forefront but the brand of Nike as driving force behind his success. This teamed Nike with the same hip hop market which Adidas were targeting, challenging its hold on the market.
Other diverse areas also saw Nike entering into new market places. The emergence within youth culture of skateboarding saw Nike’s Blazer associated with what was regarded a free and exciting youth. The catchphrase of “Just do it” launched in 1989 tagged the brand again with the ‘street’ movement, ultimately meaning the Air Max shoe became a staple of Hip hop artists and fans throughout the 1990’s. 2002 saw the launch of the Nike SB, Nike’s first dedicated skateboard shoe. This challenge to Skateboarding staple brands such as DC shoes reinforced the stronghold which Nike holds over the youth market. Throughout the 21st century Nike has continued to make moves into all areas of the market and through its estimated 30,000 world wide employees it has pursued its streetwear ties. Hip Hop artisits such as producer DJ Premier have collaborated with Nike on shoes however its most successful collaboration in recent times has undoubtedly been the Air Yeezy. Launched in 2009 a design collaboration between Nike and Hip Hop artist Kanye West saw queues in streets throughout the world. Fans waited to glimpse the shoe which was creating reverberations across the streetwear world, only rivalled by the Jordan Brand. With the shoes’ success collaborations will undoubtedly be key to maintaining a hold in a streetwear market which has become crowded in recent times. With endorsements such as: “Whether you are on the court, in the street, in the club, at school, Nike represents excellence, the standard in design.” from Kanye West and a market which operates in 160 countries it appears that Nike will have the power to stay relevant in the market for many years to come.