Nike – Behind the swoosh

Nike may be one of the most famous brands in the world, their iconic ‘swoosh’ logo instantly recognisable, but there are a few things you may not know about the company.

Here are the top ten least known facts about the company. For instance, did you know that:

Nike was founded in 1964 as a distributor for the Japanese shoemaker Onitsuka Tiger – better known these days as Asics – and was called Blue Ribbon Sports. The company didn’t acquire its name, Nike Inc. until 1971.

The company was founded by Bill Bowerman — a track-and-field coach — and Phil Knight, a middle-distance runner from Portland who was enrolled in the University of Oregon. And they had the princely sum of just $1,200 in the bank when they set out.

Knight’s original idea for a name for the company was Dimension 6 – fortunately, he bowed to one of the company’s employees, Jeff Johnson, who came up with the idea of Nike. She was, of course, the Greek goddess of victory, but you knew that anyway, didn’t you?

The first Nike shoes were made using a waffle iron. Seriously – Bill Bowerman’s brainwave arrived in 1971, while making waffles with his wife for breakfast. He was inspired to design a grooved pattern on trainers’ soles to help athletes grip running tracks. And so was born the “Nike Waffle Trainer,” patented in 1974 – at the expense of his wife’s waffle iron.

The Nike swoosh was designed by a student at Portland State University called Carolyn Davidson, and she was paid $35 (not much more than $200 in today’s currency). However, she was later given stock that would now be worth more than $640,000.

The first “Just Do It” campaign was successfully launched in 1988, the ad featuring hero of the running community Walt Stack – who was then 80 – making his way across the Golden Gate Bridge. Less well-known is that the slogan “Just Do It” was inspired by serial killer Gary Gilmore’s last words before being executed by firing squad in 1977 – “let’s do it”.

Michael Jordan might not have played basketball professionally since 2003, but it is still reported to earn $60 million annually in royalties from Nike. That means he has the biggest Nike endorsement deal ever – no question.

The first athlete to sign an endorsement contract with Nike was the no 1 Romanian tennis star Ilie Nastase, in 1972. While undoubtedly a great tennis player, Nastase was notorious for what could only be described as an unpredictable temperament and tagged with the nickname “the Bucharest Buffoon.”

In 1987, Nike used the Beatles’ song Revolution as the soundtrack for an Air Max ad, marking the first time a Beatles song had ever been permitted to be used in an ad.

Finally – where’s the world’s largest Nike store? No, it’s not in the States. In fact, it can be found in London, in Oxford Street to be precise. Nike Town is designed around the layout of a town square, spanning three levels and covering 42,000 feet of floor space.

Which leads us to the burning question – where will you buy your next pair of Nike shoes?

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