Little Bits of History

January 25

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 25, 2017

1964: Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS) is founded. The company was begun by two University of Oregon track athletes, Phil Knight and his coach, Bill Bowerman. Originally, they acted as distributors for Japanese shoes made by Onitsuka Tiger (today, ASICS) and made most sales out of the trunk of Knight’s car during track meets. Another athlete, Otis Davis, claims the first pair of shoes Bowerman made were for him, regardless of what later reports indicate, but he also said he did not like them. During their first year of business, BRS sold 1,300 pair of Japanese running shoes, grossing $8,000. By the next year, they had a full time employee and more than doubled sales to $20,000. The next year, they opened their first retail store in Santa Monica, California. Sales increased and spread to the other coast.

By 1971, BRS and Onitsuka Tiger were nearing the end of their association and the owners launched their own footwear line. Along with this decision came a name change and logo update. The name they chose was Nike and on June 18, the Swoosh designed by Carolyn Davidson was first used. It was registered with the Patent Office in 1974. They hired John Brown and Partners as their first advertising agency and had their first “brand ad” aired the next year – “There is no finish line”. By 1980, Nike had 50% of the US athletic shoe market and the company went public in December of that year.

During the following decade, Nike expanded the product line to include more sports and regions of the world. Wieden+Kennedy, their current advertising agency, have created many notable print and television campaigns. It was Dan Wieden who came up with the famous “Just Do It” line in 1988. In 1990, Nike moved headquarters to an eight-building World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. While headquartered in the US, the company has over 700 shops around the world and offices in 45 countries other than the US. Their hiring practices outside the US has led to criticisms regarding what is termed Nike sweatshops where labor laws were circumvented, a practice Nike has claimed has since been halted.

Today, the multi-national company still has Phil Knight as Chairman Emeritus and Mark Parker as Chairman, President and CEO. Bill Bowerman died in 1999. Today, Nike employs over 62,000 people and in 2015 had a net income of $3,273,000,000 – more than 400,000 times the amount earned that first year. Their total assets in 2015 were $21.600 billion and total equity was $12.707 billion. Knight has been generous in philanthropic efforts, donating over $100 million to Stanford University. He has also donated generously to the University of Oregon and he and his wife have pledged $100 million to cancer research at the Oregon Health & Science University.

I don’t consider myself enigmatic, but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my public persona.

There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about that is the key to success.

At first, we couldn’t be establishment, because we didn’t have any money. We were guerrilla marketers, and we still are, a little bit. But, as we became No. 1 in our industry, we’ve had to modify our culture and become a bit more planned.

You can’t explain much in 60 seconds, but when you show Michael Jordan, you don’t have to. It’s that simple. – all from Phil Knight