The History of Nike – Then & Now

The History of Nike – Then & Now

While it seems like Nike, the premier athletic shoe and apparel company, has been around forever, its humble beginnings as Blue Ribbon Sports, a distributor for the Japanese shoemaker once known as Onitsuka Tiger and now known as ASICS, were just half a century ago, in 1964. A company that began with just $1,200 in capital is now a multibillion dollar, multinational corporation that has become the face of athletics around the world, with its iconic Swoosh logo shorthand for sporty style and function.

Nike took its name from the Greek goddess of victory, and the name has become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the brand, now the number one athletic footwear brand in the world. Nike’s shoes have evolved quite a bit from the Nike Waffle Trainer, patented in 1974, and inspired by company co-founder Bill Bowerman’s wife’s waffle iron. Now, shoes like the FS Lite and the Flex series—the Flex Experience, Flex Supreme, Flex Trainer and Flex Run—bring the latest in running and training innovation at affordable prices to athletes across the world in many sports, both amateur and professional.

That first shoe, the Waffle Trainer, brought waffle soles to athletic footwear for the first time, and Nike continues to innovate. For example, the FS Lite uses mesh and synthetic materials to create a lightweight running shoe for high performance at a price affordable to most consumers, when just a few years ago such innovative footwear would have only been available for high-level athletes. The Flex series uses a patented Phylite midsole to add performance unique to Nike.

Nike has not only innovated in the realm of footwear, but also in the realm of advertising and branding. Nike was well behind other athletic brands in popularity before joining forces with basketball icon Michael Jordan, whose line of shoes is still one of the most in-demand each and every year. Though Jordan has not played professional basketball since 2003, he still earns around $60 million a year in endorsement money from Nike due to the success of the Air Jordan line, with its iconic “Jumpman” logo. Current NBA stars are handpicked by Jordan to continue the Air Jordan legacy—today Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and others all are endorsed by the Jordan brand.

The “Jumpman” logo is iconic, but even more widely recognized is the Nike “Swoosh” logo. The “Swoosh” was designed by Carolyn Davidson, a student at Portland State University, who had met Nike co-founder Phil Knight by chance. Ms. Davidson was paid $35 for the logo, which Knight didn’t like at first. Its appeal grew on him, and the rest of the world, and as a reward, the company gave Ms. Davidson stock that is now worth $643 thousand.

Though Nike is a relatively new addition in the world of footwear, they have truly claimed victory through a careful mix of branding, athlete sponsorship, and athletic shoe innovation. Catch the latest in Nike footwear at Famous Footwear today.