Nike Brand Guide
Doused in legend, the Nike brand has stood for world-beating athleticism since its birth. With iconic references ranging from the Swoosh to the ‘Just Do It’ slogan, Nike has found the perfect reflection for its status as a sportswear leader. Moving from its humble beginnings on the tracks and fields of America, Nike soon became one of the most recognisable brand’s in history, with its ground-breaking styles seen on the feet of global athletes to people in every walk of life.
History of Nike:
Conceived from the innovative thoughts of two men who were leaders in their own sporting backgrounds, the inception of Nike wasn’t as straight forward as many believe. Embroiled in a time where German athletic brands like Adidas were gaining the applaud of the world’s best athletes, Nike emerged after a time of testing, deliberation and innovation, helping to drive the technology of sporting excellence forward.
Long before Nike even became a concept, the two men who would ultimately give the label the tools to dominate the sporting industry were united by pure coincidence thanks to their shared affinity for improving kit for competitive runners in America.
The first of these men was Bill Bowerman. A well-respected track and field coach at the University of Oregon, Bowerman was never content on accepting the limits of what the sportswear market was offering to his athletes. He used his University team to experiment with different track surfaces, innovative nutrition, and, most importantly, track shoes, to bolster performance. Bowerman had come up with a handful of innovative trainer styles that would help drive any athlete’s performance. He took his ideas to some of the leading manufacturers at the time, but none would take his ideas on board, so Bowerman began to cobble shoes himself.
The second mastermind of Nike’s huge rise to prominence was Phil Knight. An ex track athlete under Bowerman, Knight used his degree to write a proposal of creating high-quality running shoes in Japan, to compete against the experience of leading German manufacturers at the time. The proposal was rejected, so Knight took it upon himself to cold call Onitsuka in Japan, who were producing the Onitsuka Tiger trainer, and requested to become an official distributor in America. The deal was a success and Knight returned to his old coach, Bowerman, with hopes to sell him some trainers to the team. It was here that a formidable partnership was formed. Instead of buying Knight’s trainers, Bowerman offered him his partnership and designs that he could give straight to the Onitsuka company.
Selling their wares out of a store named Blue Ribbon Sports, the pair set about innovating styles that Onitsuka had already crafted, to make them better. The business quickly grew and the pair had to introduce a helping hand to suffice their efforts. Jeff Johnson, a friend of Knight’s and a runner himself became the company’s utility man in 1965, doing everything from creating mail order brochures to running the store. It was around this time that the group’s relationship with Onitsuka began to break down. Opting to lean towards production rather than retail, the three men developed Nike inc. The name came first and was derived from Greek mythology where it meant ‘Winged Goddess of Victory’, then the Swoosh followed thanks to a Portland State University graphic design student named Carolyn Davidson. The first line of Nike footwear rolled out in 1972.
Celebrity & Popular Culture:
Swoosh-imbued trainers were a huge success with the few athletes who wore them in the brand’s formative years, leading Nike to gain seismic applaud through its clever product placement. The brand first chose Steve Prefontaine as one of its initial endorsement deals – a young and promising runner who already held several American track records. The choice was wise, with Prefontaine largely plugging Nike and spreading the word to other athletes urging them to side with the Swoosh-baring label.
Following the success of this venture, Nike learned the importance of product placement. Over the years it has employed some of the biggest and best sporting names to maximise on exposure. From supplying the entire Brazilian football team to taking a risk on sponsoring a golfer who was considered a nobody in the sport at the time; Tiger Woods.
Out of all of Nike’s promising endorsement deals though, it would be fair to say that the Swoosh truly hit the jackpot when it chose to cling to the early success of NBA superstar Michael Jordan back in 1984. At the time, Jordan’s star was rising like no other – something Nike identified early on and hoped to catapult on by setting up a meeting with the NBA MVP. Though MJ’s allure was obvious, the same could not be said for Nike, who back then, was still very much considered the new kid on the block, especially given the stature of adidas – a brand that Michael Jordan has openly admitted he wished to be professionally affiliated with.
After some consistent and wise persuasion from his Mother, Michael Jordan signed a five-year deal with newcomer Nike earning him a whopping $500,000 annually and the result? A prolific sneaker that remains alive and well today; the immensely lauded Air Jordan. Initially, Nike had humble hopes for ‘Air Jordan’ with a prediction of $3,000,000 in sales over the first four years, but much to the brand’s surprise, the reputable design brought in an eye-watering $126,000,000 worth of shoe sales in its first year alone. And if you needed further clarification of the Air Jordan’s lucrative credentials? Let’s just say that Michael Jordan is reportedly worth 1.6 billion USD as of August 2020.
Nike Air Max 98 – As you may have already guessed, the longstanding Air Max 98 debuted in the late nineties and was famously held as ‘the comfiest shoe’ on the market. Designed by Sergio Lozano, the talent behind the Air Max 95, this shoe originally garnered attention after heralding in a sustainable approach to the Air bubble. At the time, Air Max styles were fairly reputable for experimenting with fresh approaches to the underfoot cushioning system, however, quite refreshingly, the Air Max 98 chose to usher in the same Air bubble utilised on its big brother, the Air Max 97. Though the Air Max 98 isn’t the Swoosh’s most commanding of styles, it does return time and time again within the brand’s portfolio and to ample fanfare.
Nike Blazer – Named after local basketball team the ‘Portland Trail Blazers’, the Nike Blazer soon became a hit both on and off the court after it debuted in 1973 – a mere nine years after Nike inc. made its foray onto the sportswear scene. Built to bolster gameplay with a supple leather upper, soft mesh tongue and vulcanised rubber sole, this design boasted great rapport with a plethora of famous faces at the time, including San Antonio Spurs shooting guard George Gervin – who himself – was hugely responsible for the shoe’s initial popularity. Having made its name in the skatewear and streetwear scene since, Nike’s Blazer silhouette has proven itself as a retro style that’s here to stay.
Nike React – Nike’s React technology is as beloved as adidas’ Boost tech; they’re both fresh and fearsome in their own way. Though relatively new, having launched in 2017, React tech makes up for lost time with comfort and innovation in spades. Any shoe that possesses React foam is advantageous from the get-go, just like the React Vision Worldwide sneaker featured below. Engineered with runners in mind, React Foam supplies a superlative energy return packaged within a lightweight unit, presenting springy seamless motion to anyone who chooses to invest in it.
Since their successes on the field and far beyond, Nike has grabbed the attention of style seekers the world over for decades now. With a casual laidback look that has a hugely popular American athletic appeal, a pair of Nike trainers are now as at home on the high street as they are on the track.