Nike is an iconic, innovative footwear and apparel company that had modest beginnings in Oregon. Legendary track & field coach Bill Bowerman met his future co-founder Phil Knight at the University of Oregon during the mid 1950s, at about the same time that he was pitching innovative running ideas to established footwear manufacturers who ignored his proposals. Bowerman experimented with cobbling shoes for his athletes, and less than ten years later, he and Knight formed Blue Ribbon Sports with a pledge of $500 each.
Blue Ribbon Sports evolved into Nike, Inc. with the help of a student graphic designer, Carolyn Davidson who designed the infamous “swoosh” logo and Jeff Johnson, who was the company’s first full-time employee and became an invaluable source of growth. Innovation has been a key factor in Nike’s growth over the years. When founder Bill Bowerman experimented with different shoe soles, he created a rubber sole with traction using his wife’s waffle iron. By teaming up with a former aerospace engineer, they were able to create Nike Air cushioning, which were durable bags filled with pressurized gas that compress under impact and then spring back.
A long history of sponsorships with athletes like Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and many international athletes and teams has helped Nike to be the most recognized sports brand in the world, as have the numerous acquisitions of other well-known companies like Converse and Hurley. Continuous developments in creating lightweight, ergonomic materials, customizable products, and increased participation in sustainable practices and charitable efforts have set the bar high for Nike’s competitors.