Nike is the most prestigious sports brand in the world. Since Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight created Blue Ribbon Sport, a small Oregon company that took its first steps as a distributor of the Japanese brand Tiger Onitsuka, to becoming a multinational with revenues of more than $24.1 billion and worth $47.4 billion,There is no doubt that Nike has evolved unstoppably to position itself as an undisputed leader among sports companies.
In our first post, we analyzed the beginnings of the brand from 1964 to the early 80s. New models, new technology, a high volume of sales, image, strategic marketing and perfect positioning in the market, nothing made foreshadowing that someone could stop the meteoric rise of the brand.
However, in 1982, Nike went through a crisis caused by its competitor, Reebok, when it launched its revolutionary Reebok Freestyle. the first sports shoe designed exclusively for women. A breakthrough, not only for women’s footwear, but also for the athletic performance of the time. Taking advantage of aerobic fashion that stretched from the early to the mid-1980s,Freestyle reached an underserved market, such as the female market, which gave it a greater presence and competitive advantage and, from that moment, became NIKE’s No. 1 “enemy”. Given the relevance that Reebok was having in the market, which in 1983 launched the Freestyle Hi and in the 84th the line already accounted for more than half of the sales, Nike was in the background and needed to redefine its design and commercial strategy.And it was just that moment in 1984 that Michael Jordan made his NBA debut from the University of North Carolina and ranked third in the Chicago Bulls-selected draft.
For sponsorships, Jordan had dressed Converse during his college years and his success as a rookie made him have numerous offers. Jordan’s goal was to sign with Adidas, but the negotiations were not fruitful.After Adidas, he held meetings with Converse, which sponsored big stars such as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or Julius Erving, and was offered the same contract as the other players, but declined the offer. As it was, Nike, a growing company, appeared, which had just been a huge success at the Los Angeles Olympics with Carl Lewis but wanted to take it a step further.He was offered an exclusivity contract of $500,000 a year for five seasons, three times the biggest deal yet. A clear and determined commitment to Michael Jordan. However, he wanted a counteroffer from Adidas (for his favourite), but the German brand did not accept the player’s conditions, so, eventually, Nike and Jordan sealed an alliance that would make history, and launched one of the most iconic sports lines: Air Jordan,designed exclusively for the player who also had a logo in his image and likeness, the famous “Jumpman” (as a curiosity, it can be said that the silhouette was not an original idea of Nike, since it was a photograph taken by Life magazine). The first design of the Air Jordan was a nod to their franchise, Chicago Bulls, as the colors chosen were red and black. However, after the agreement it debuted, for the first and last time, with another model, Nike Air Ship, white and red, although later I would only wear Air Jordan.
To the brand as the player bet firmly on the model, despite the fines Jordan received ($5,000) for not complying with the current footwear regulations in the NBA. Which, ingeniously, they took advantage of to make a fantastic ad campaign: Banned “On September 15, Nike created a revolutionary basketball shoe. On October 18, the NBA banned them for games. Fortunately, the NBA can’t stop you from wearing them.”The shoes were originally released to stores in March 1985, and were an instant hit. Nike had sold Air Jordan for $70 million in May, barely a month after launch, and the line made the brand more than $100 million at the end of the year. Since then, Nike’s Air Jordan line launched other new models that also reaped success (Air Jordan II, the III, the first to wear the Jumpman logo, then the IV, which made famous Spike Lee’s film, Do the Right Thing, the Air Jordan V, mythical thanks to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Concord XI, Future, etc…) And so continued the joint story of NIKE and Michael Jordan, expanding to various lines of exclusive clothing, merchandising, and all kinds of apparel where the Air Jordan logo could appear.Even after the retirement of the basketball legend, he still earns more money a year with the Air Jordan line than in his entire professional career. Amazing.
In addition, not only did Air Jordan live Nike. The Oregons were unstoppable and each release was successful (Air Force 1, Air Trainer, Air Max, which was launched on March 26, 1987 and that every year, since 2014 celebrates the anniversary of its launch on AirMax Day, Air Max 90, Huarache, Air Max 95, Air 180, etc...).They also designed the Nike Bat Boots for Tim Burton’s first Batman (1989) film or the Nike Mag Back to the future II (1989). Even high mountain-thinking clothing and footwear, All Conditions Gear (ACG) measuring with the North face, Patagonia or Columbia.
Another of the most sound contracts in sports history was the one signed between Nike and then young golfer, Tiger Woods. A relationship that began in 1996 and ended in 2016 when the brand stopped manufacturing equipment for golf. The first contract was 40 million (1996-2001), the next of 100 million (2001-2005) and the third between 20-40 million annually (2005-2013), always staying loyal to the golfer. The partnership was extended again in 2013 for an un revealed sum, and remained intact even after Nike finished its production of golf equipment, in 2016. As a result of this alliance Nike’s profits were stratospheric.
As it happens in any story, Nike has also been peppered by controversies: since the 1970s she has been accused of manufacturing in operating workshops in Korea, China, Taiwan, Indonesia or Vietnam.The publication of activist Jeff Ballinger’s documentary, the protests at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, his controversy with Kathy Lee Gifford over child labour and student protests of ’98 or the 1999 lawsuit among others. To this day he continues with annual audits for corporate social responsibility.
In 1999, Nike revolutionized marketing with Nike ID technology, which allowed the buyer to customize their own shoe from manufacturing.Something you’ve never seen before. And, in 2011, she starred, along with EBAY, one of the most memorable auctions in the history of athletic footwear with the reissue of the Nike Mag worth more than $4.7 million. All funds were earmarked for the fight against Parkinson’s from the founding of Michael J. Fox, a disease that the same actor has suffered since 1991.
Months later, on December 24, 1999, Bill Bowerman co-founder of the company died. In 2004 Phil Knight left his post as president and CEO and hired William Perez to replace him, but fired him two years later and appointed Mark Parker, who had joined the company in 1979 as a shoe designer.
Within the creative team, in 2012, The Pride Network was launched, a campaign aimed at building a diverse community in orientation, identity and expression. And, from there he was born, #Betrue in favor of the LGTBI community and that, every June coinciding with Pride Day, they launch a design.
Nike continues to grow and closes an official sponsorship deal with the NFL and NBA in 2012 and 2015 respectively. The following year, in June 2016, Phil Knight announced his official retirement as president of the company. And, just two months later, the NFL is peppered by a controversy starring San Francisco49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt down and refused to stand up during the national anthem in protest at the murders of black citizens by white policemen. An act of solidarity that others turned into reproachable behavior and a lack of respect and that cost him his professional career, since I abandoned the franchise in 2017. And, once again, taking advantage of the opportunities, Nike positioned himself next to the player and, in 2018, starred in the “Dream Crazy” campaign with the slogan:“just do it” and the quote: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.“ This campaign sparked a stock market crash and numerous criticisms and even a massive boycott, but Nike was able to overcome it.
Technologies such as Flyknit, Hyperadapt 1.0, Vaporfly, Zoom X, Dri-fit, or innovative Joyride (2020) continue to put Nike on the front line of the market, sales and consumer preferences.
In short, Nike is a company that has always stood out for its entrepreneurial spirit, leading technology, innovation, design, marketing and sales.A pioneering brand of vanguard that, with each of its designs, not only captivates its fans, but also puts in check the competition.
Its past, present and future is full of light, a light through which this legendary company has made us join in memorable campaigns, world records and extraordinary stories that are hard to forget. And it’s no wonder, because let’s be honest… who has never worn a Nike, raise their hand…
“Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight
“The sneaker freaker book”, Taschen
Netflix documentary. Abstract: The Art Of Design – Tinker Hatfield