Nike – Innovation and Inspiration for Athletes

The brand that I am writing about is the one with the Swoosh logo that is placed on the side of shoes, and is amongst one of the younger brands that dominate the sportswear market around the world.

Nike (Ni-KEY), named after the winged Greek goddess of Victory, was founded by American track and field coach Bill Bowerman and middle distance track runner Phil Knights on January 25, 1964. From an idea conceived by Phil Knights while writing his term paper on starting a small business, during his MBA at Stanford University, Nike’s ascent to a world’s leading sports brand makes an interesting story.

Nike logo

The Inception and Early years of Nike


In his marketing paper titled ‘Can Japanese Sports Shoes Do to German Sports Shoes What Japanese Cameras Did to German Cameras? ‘, Knights had proposed the idea of importing low-cost, high tech running shoes made in Japan to provide cost effective alternatives to the athletes in the German dominated athletic shoe market.

On completing his MBA, Phil Knight traveled to Japan on a world-tour and at that time he happened to meet the Japanese running shoe manufacturer, and talked them into exporting shoes to the US. Blue Ribbon Sports was set up in Oregon, USA, in 1964, to operate as a distributor for Japanese shoe maker Onitsuka Tiger (now known as ASICS). The partnership continued till late 1970s. 

Bill Bowerman, Nike
Bill Bowerman

Around that time, Bill Bowerman made the first Nike sneaker with grooved soles that provided the athletes a firm grip on the running tracks. The idea struck Bowerman as he watched the grooved pattern of a waffle, when he and his wife were making waffles for breakfast. Pouring a mixture of rubber and latex into his wife’s waffle iron, Bowerman created the grooved design for sole

After it parted ways with Onitsuka Tiger, the company was renamed Nike, in 1971, and it launched its own line of footwear, with the newly designed Swoosh on it.

The rubber and latex running shoe outsole became Bowerman’s first patent in 1974.  By 1980, Bowerman had filed eight patents.


Innovation and inspiration for athletes 

To Bring Inspiration and Innovation to Every Athlete in the World

“Innovation and inspiration for athletes” has been Nike’s brand promise since its inception. Some of Nike’s iconic shoes were the results of the creative design inspirations of Bowerman, and the culture of innovation instilled by Bowerman continues till date.

Developed with inputs from performers on the field, Nike products are designed keeping in mind the present and anticipated needs of the athletes. Gas-filled plastic membranes are inserted into the sole of running shoes to provide cushioning, making use of their patented Air technology. Nike Mach Speed Uniform is one of the most technically advanced football chassis that incorporates padding and is designed to maximize both airflow and mobility.

Nike Laser Talon
Nike Laser Talon

Seeking insights from bio-mechanists, coaches and gold-medal sprinter Michael Johnson, in 2013, Nike designers introduced the first 3-D printed plate, designed to improve performance, especially propulsion from an athlete’s crucial first step.



Responding to changing demands


With the use of  NIKEiD service, you can place order for customizing and designing your own Nike shoes as per the colour, material, traction options of your choice. The orders can be placed online or at physical NIKEiD studios in different countries around the world.

Nike had pioneered into the wearable technology market with Nike+FuelBand, a bracelet to be worn on wrist and used with a smartphone to monitor the wearers’ their physical activity, steps taken daily, and amount of energy burned. However, after studies proved that smartphone kept in a user’s pocket serves as a better fitness tracker than a wristband, Nike pulled out its Fuelband in 2014, thus demonstrating its ability to respond to changing demands of the market.

Risk Everything

Nike’s “Risk Everything” video was the most viral campaign during the FIFA World Cup, featuring real football superstars along with animations. With the campaign Nike reconfirmed a laser focus on the youth market. With a strike of his Nike Magista boot, German striker Mario Gotze scored the winning goal of the tournament. 

After 50 years of founding the company, as Phil Knights prepares to step away from his role as the Chairman of Nike he leaves behind an awesome customer-centric brand.


Image credit: Nike website  (

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    By: Somali K Chakrabarti

    Hi there ! I am a management and leadership coach and a ‘çlinical blogger’. Well, that’s what my family & friends call me now ! Here, I tell stories of different brands, how people relate to the brands and the values, beliefs and emotions that they associate with the brands. Hope you enjoy reading my posts.

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2 thoughts on “Nike – Innovation and Inspiration for Athletes

  • July 3, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Nike is undoubtedly the most renowned show brand and extremely popular not only among athletes but also with aam aadmi 🙂

    Didn’t actually know that it has been named after the Greek goddess of victory. This is the reason I like your brand stories more..for providing such interesting trivia… 🙂

  • July 4, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Nike is a well established sports shoe brand .Your brand story delineates the innovative spirit , creativity and adjustments with changing needs of the clientele by the makers of the celebrated brand .


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