Nike Brand Guide
Surrounded by infamy and 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 their status as brand leaders time and time again. Moving from their humble beginnings on the tracks and fields of American athletics, Nike have become one of the most recognisable brands in history, carrying their sporting inspired styles from the feet of athletes to people in every walk of life, Nike have become the synonymous label with casually fashionable footwear.
Crafted 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 for a sporting brand, the two men who would ultimately give the label the tools to become a world leader united by pure coincidence which was crafted thanks to their shared interest in improving the equipment 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 happy 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 improve performance. Bowerman had come up with a handful of innovative styles of trainers that would help bolster 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 the leading German brands 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, to hopefully sell him some trainers for his 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 into their store. 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. The name came first, thanks to Johnson and then the Swoosh followed thanks to a local graphic design student. The first line of Nike footwear rolled out in 1972.
Nike trainers were a huge success with the few athletes who wore them, leading Nike to gain bigger applaud through clever product placement. They chose Steve Prefontaine, a young and promising runner who already held several American track records. The choice was wise, with Prefontaine endorsing Nike and spreading the word to other athletes, urging them to use them. Recently the brand payed homage to Steve Prefontaine with the release of the Rebel Skulls’ pack – a mixture of classic Air Max silhouettes with a moody blacked out upper, silver details and the Skull and Crossbone motif to the tongue – a nod to Prefontaine’s high-school running club emblem.
Following the success of this venture, Nike learnt the importance of product placement. Over the years they have supplied some of the biggest and best sporting names to get their brand seen. 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, Nike have ensured that their products are the best for innovating, leading, and succeeding.
Since their successes on the field, heralding a new age for sportswear, Nike has grabbed the attention of style seekers the world over. With a casual laid back look that has a hugely popular American athletic feel, a pair of Nike trainers are now as at home on the high street as they are on the track.
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