Nike wouldn't be where it is today without Phil Knight, who helped establish the brand back in 1964, originally as Blue Ribbon Sports.
Phil Knight’s days as chairman at Nike will be coming to an end soon, but he’s leaving quite a legacy as the brand’s co-founder that will never be forgotten. As he prepares to step away from the company he helped create, he’s written a memoir that's a first-hand account of how he went from selling shoes out of the back of a station wagon to building one of the most recognizable brands in the world. We have explored this just-published book, Shoe Dog, to learn more. Here are a few interesting facts from Nike's history in Knight's own words.
Knight was obsessive about people not wearing Nike
"I no longer simply made Nikes; Nikes were making me. If I saw an athlete choose another shoe, if I saw anyone choose another shoe, it wasn't a rejection of the brand alone, but of me. I told myself to be reasonable, not everyone in the world was going to wear Nike. And I won't say that I became upset every time I saw someone walking down the street in a running shoe that wasn't mine, but it definitely registered. And I didn't care for it."
LeBron James studied the history of Nike and gave Phil Knight a gift of appreciation
During a private event back in 2005, LeBron pulled Knight aside and explained that he’d been studying up on the history of Nike. He then handed Knight a 1972 Rolex–from the year Nike was founded (Blue Ribbon Sports changed to Nike). It was engraved with the message, “With thanks for taking a chance on me.”
Nike's original script lettering was confusing to people
"Aside from the Swoosh, we had a lowercase script name, nike, which was problematic—too many people thought it was like or mike...Denny Strickland, creative director at our advertising agency, had designed a block-lettered NIKE, all caps, and nested it inside a swoosh. We spent days considering it, debating it."
Why the orange boxes?
In the '70s, sneaker boxes were either white or blue. When Phil Knight debuted the Nike brand at the National Sporting Goods Association Show in Chicago in 1972, he sought packaging that would catch the eye of prospective buyers and industry insiders: "I'd wanted something that would stand out, that would pop on the shelves of sporting goods stores. So I'd asked Nippon Rubber for boxes of bright neon orange, figuring it was the boldest colour in the rainbow."
Nike focused on Air cushioning because adidas passed on it
"'Air shoes sounded to me like jet packs or moving sidewalks. Comic book stuff," Knight wrote about being pitched air-infused soles in the late '70s. What really sold the co-founder on the technology when it was pitched to him by Frank M. Rudy and Bob Bogert. The design duo had originally presented it to adidas, who was also skeptical. "Abracadabra. That was all I needed to hear."
Phil Knight doesn't believe in advertising
It's hard to believe the founder of the company that's had some of the most memorable campaigns in history is not a believer in advertising, but it's true. Knight writes that only quality of product is what matters to him. "Our advertising people, of course, told me I was wrong, wrong, a thousand percent wrong. But again and again I'd ask them: Can you say definitely that people are buying Nikes because of your ad? Can you show it to me in black-and-white numbers? Silence."
Phil Knight was scared to take Nike public
Knight feared that “going public would change Nike, ruin it, by turning over control to others.” That was until he learned they could issue two classes of stock: class A, which would go to the inner circle and founders, and class B, which would be available to the public. This allowed Knight to raise the money Nike needed for growth and retaining control.