The Quick History of Nike, Nike Advertising and Nike Brands
Nike, the number one manufacturer of footwear and apparel, has become a household name on the same level as mogul companies McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Budweiser. Nike was founded in 1964 by track coach and runner duo Bill Bowerman and Phillip Knight as Blue Ribbons Sports, later becoming Nike, Inc. in 1978. The name Nike was chosen in reference to the Greek Goddess of victory.
Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, the sportswear and equipment supplier made $16 billion in revenue in 2007, up from 9.2 billion in 1997. Nike currently employs 30,000 people worldwide.
Nike sells products under Nike, Inc., Nike Golf, Nike+, Nike Pro, Nike SB (Skateboarding), Air Jordan, and Team Starter, with subsidiaries Cole Haan, Umbro (since 2007), Converse, and Hurley International. Nike has come a long way from when its founders used to sell the shoes out of the trunk of their cars until the first Nike store was built in 1966. Now Nike products are sold in numerous shoe and apparel stores worldwide as well as in specialty Niketown stores and online at Nike.com.
Nike sells clothing and equipment for sports like Track and Field, Football, Baseball, Soccer, Tennis, Cricket, Basketball, and Skateboarding. Nike has numerous websites dedicated to each of their target audiences including Nikebasketball.com, Nikerunning.com and Nikefootball.com.
Nike didn’t run TV ads until 1982. Previously, Nike concentrated on sponsorships and celebrity athletes’ endorsements – including both professional athletes and college teams.
The first professional athlete endorser was Ilie Natase – a Romanian tennis player. The first track and field athlete to endorse the brand was Steve Prefontaine.
Nike has signed top athletes in the sports of Football, Basketball, Soccer, Baseball, Cycling, Golf, Tennis, Skateboarding, Boxing, Track and Field and Formula 1 Racing. One of Nike’s best PR decisions was signing Michael Jordan as a celebrity endorser in 1984.
Nike’s steady competition in the 1980s was Reebok. To break any similarities they had to Reebok, Nike began promoting its shoes as fashion accessories. Reebok had cornered the younger, aerobics audience, so Nike started concentrating their ads around the person wearing the product rather than the product itself. In the 80s, Nike grew to hold 50% of the market share in the athletic shoe market.
In 1988, Nike employees met with advertising agency Wieden and Kennedy (formed in 1982). In the midst of the meeting, Dan Weiden turned to the Nike employees and said, “You Nike guys, you just do it.” And so the infamous Just Do It tagline was born.
The original Just Do It campaign was aimed at Nike’s traditional target, 18-40 year old males, as well as younger teens and females. The campaign reached consumers on a humorous level and tapped into the fitness craze happening at the time. The ads worked to shame people into exercising, and when exercising to wear Nike’s.
Through the celebrity endorsement of John McEnroe, Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan, the Just Do It ads helped Nike be seen as a hip brand that people wanted to wear whether exercising or not. The Just Do It campaign was chosen by the magazine Ad Age as one of the top five advertising slogans of the 20th century.
Nike sponsors Hoop It Up, a program for high school basketball players, and The Golden West Invitational, for high school track and field players. Nike also donates money to the Let Me Play Fund – named after a 1995 Nike advertisement. The Fund issues grants for equipment and uniforms.
Nike launched their skateboard collection, NikeSB, in 2002 in an attempt to gain market share in the quickly growing skateboarding craze. Before Nike SB, skateboarders wore Nike basketball sneakers because of their strong grips and ankle support, as well as their great comfort level.
Over the years, skateboarders have had fluctuating opinions of Nike – enjoying the brands’ quality products, but rejecting its commercial aspects. Nike’s two main competitors for skateboard shoes are Vans and DC Shoes.
Occasionally the NikeSB shoes get ruined quickly if used for skateboarding – leading their users to steer away from skating in the shoes and instead wear them for their collectible value. To keep up its collectible aspect, Nike keeps down the numbers of its NikeSB’s produced and ships them to shops with a $65 – $100.00 suggested retail price, although the shop owners often sell them for much more.
In 2007, NikeSB released a Skateboarding video titled “Nothing But The Truth” starring Brian Anderson, Wieger Van Wageningen, Paul Rodriguez Jr., Omar Salazar, Stefan Janoski, and Aaron Gonzalez. NikeSB promotes their products in hip-magazine ads in skateboard magazines like Transworld, Skateboarding Mag, Skateboarder, Thrasher, Slap, Big Brother.
In 2005, Nike released a series of ads aimed at women athletes. The sassy, humorous ads urged women to celebrate their Thunder Thies and Big Butts. The strictly print campaign drove women to the website NikeWomen.com. The campaign discussed 6 body parts and mirrored the Dove Real Women campaign.
In 2006, Nike released the fourth pair of sneakers sponsored by LeBron James – Nike Air Zoom LeBron IV. Not only was the shoe the single sponsor of an airing of ESPN Sports Center, there were also 400,000 DVDs distributed that showed the making of the shoe and its unique ad campaign.
There were many advertising outlets used for the fourth shoe in the series that were not used as heavily in the first, second or third versions. These included ads on MTV.com and ESPN.com, video clips on MTV2, TV commercials, print ads, and a “Retro-Chic,” neon billboard placed near Madison Square Garden that showed LeBron dunking continuously.
Nike promoted NikeLab.com along with the release of the movie Transformers through a TV commercial in which a large Nike shoe on a billboard transforms into a transformer.
Recently, after radio host Don Imus made his infamous comments on air, Nike created a spin-off ad campaign defending women athletes. The campaign stars female athletes Serena Williams, Gabby Reece and Picabo Street.
Nike recently teamed with Apple to create the Nike+ series which links the runner’s shoes to their iPod Nano to monitor their performance.