Nike, a world-wide success of the hand of the sport

The leading company in sports apparel and footwear today set a model to follow in terms of how a brand image is built. Thus, the image of Nike has created its characteristic guidelines from the hand of the agency Wieden & Kennedy. Like its characteristic logo, accompanied by Swoosh (the Nike wing), or its famous slogan, which is already part of the common language ( ‘Just do it’ , which translates as ‘Just do it’), without leaving Aside the use of the image of stars of the world sport, as Michael Jordan.

Nike clothing occupies a place of prestige in the everyday clothing of millions of consumers. And, although today its image is controversial, the clothing label continues to the top of sales, with a turnover of 9. 000 million dollars between the months of January and May last year.

Union strengthens
Nike’s founder, Phil Knight (a young business graduate and then a professor at the University of Oregon, USA), had the vision of starting his own business, from providing athletes to Clothing necessary for the practice of his discipline.

In the late 1960s, the sportswear market was dominated by brands of German origin, such as Adidas, and footwear such as Converse. This was well known by Knight, since he himself had been a middle-distance runner at the university.

On a trip to Japan, the daring Knight contacted the firm Onitsuka (Asic) Tiger, dedicated to the manufacture of sports shoes, And convinced its owners that its product would have very good exit in the United States. On his return, in 1962, young Phil founded “Blue Ribbon Sports” (BRS) and the following year, the company already imported 200 pairs of high-tech sports footwear, at a very low price.

BRS was joined in 1964 by Bill Bowerman, an athletic group coach at the University of Oregon and a friend of Knight, who would then work with prototypes and shoe designs. Bowerman, always on the lookout for perfection for his athletes, one day accidentally poured the plastic rubber from the shoe into a waffle maker and then toasted it. His tests with the soles led to a surprising result: thus emerged the modern sole to run long distances in the sports shoes. The designs created by Bowerman for Nike were the most sold among sports and professional athletic shoes, with models such as ‘Marathon’, ‘Cortez’ or ‘Boston’. With the new decade, the BRS changed its name to ‘Nike Inc.’. The first employee of the new company, Jeff Johnson, proposed the name Nike , which corresponds to the Greek divinity of victory. Its correct pronunciation is separately: Ni-key. But a new image was needed for this new company. So Knight decided to call one of his students, who later became his wife, Caroline Davidson, to design a logo to be used on the side of the shoe. The young Caroline created the iconography of Swoosh , the wing of Nike that refers to the idea of speed.

The design of the Nike logo, accompanied by the Swoosh , evolved over the years, but it was the Swoosh that became a fundamental part of the Nike image. To such point that, from 1995, the Nike logo was transformed only in the Swoosh .

Nike, reaching the top position
Finally, in 1972, Nike ended its business relationship with Onitsuka (Asic) Tiger and decided to start its own production. Two years later the first industrial plant of Nike was erected, in the locality of Exeter, New Hampshire, the United States. In ’75 the expansion of Nike was already worldwide and the company had factories in Taiwan and Korea. In addition, that year Nike decided to open its second plant in the United States, in the town of Saco, Maine. Nike’s profits had grown from $ 1.96 million in 1973 to $ 149 million in the early 1980s.

By 1979, Nike ranked number one among the most popular companies, and had become the leading brand in the sports clothing industry, not only in the United States, but also in major markets such as Europe, Asia And Latin America. Its production expanded so that it went beyond sports shoes and made all kinds of clothes for the sportsman (shirts, sweaters and pants, camperas, caps and even balls, among others).

In 1984, Nike’s net profit was $ 919.8 million. But, by that date, the sportswear market was not the same, (Such as LA Gear), which, coupled with the traditional Adidas, Reebok, Converse, New Balance, Puma and Kappa, could have made even the biggest stagger.

While Nike had a long history, this was not enough for this new stage, in which the consumer was more reluctant to adopt a single brand. But, thanks to Nike’s effort and, above all, to the unique creative work of the Wieden & Kennedy agency (with Dan Wieden and Jim Risworld leading the way), the brand was repositioned as number one in the late 1980s, Remained in that place until today.

Currently, Nike’s product portfolio includes the following lines: ACG, Running, Tennis, Basketball, Baseball, Volleyball, Football, Soccer, Mountain biking, Tech Training, Track & Field, Women’s and Golf. In turn, Nike has its own line of towels, backpacks and bags within the Miscellaneous products category, in addition to the Personal Accessories line, such as watches and eyeglasses.

In terms of technological innovation, the company stands out for the design of its sneakers and the quality of its garments, as for the electronic devices of the FIT (Functional Innovate Technology) line, which allow athletes to battle against heat, Cold, snow, wind and your own heat during a physical activity.

Strategies: next to the sportsmen
When Phil Knight went ahead with Nike, in the middle of the ’60, before investing in his publicity, Needed to make the brand recognized by its target audience: athletes. To this end, Knight hired Jeff Johnson, a California footwear retailer.

Johnson did not like being called a ‘sales man’ and chose to offer the product through non-traditional channels. His first step was to go to the universities and institutions where the runners practiced. Their next step was to talk to the athletes, but above all to hear what they needed to be able to reach beyond the goal.

Gradually, the figure of the representative of Nike became known within the sports circles and, in turn, became familiar to the then unknown brand. Perhaps, this was one of the first lessons that the successful brand gave to modern marketing, Not because other companies had not taken this route, but because Nike’s emphasis was on what the consumer needed, and not so much on the product to be sold. According to company spokespersons, “Johnson’s communication with athletes became the key to Nike’s product design and marketing strategy,” to such an extent that “today the company still depends on this interaction and feedback with Athletes of all levels “. 

The great test of fire for the company was its debut in the Olympic Trials, in 1972. But the first recognition of the image of Nike, regional and global level, would be given by the athletes who would use the mark in national and international competitions of this type.

One of the first big sport idols to wear Nike was the American legend Steve Prefontaine, an amateur runner who broke all records in the 2,000 and 10,000 meters, and participated in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. Professionalizing sport

From the professionalisation of sports disciplines, Nike began to occupy an ascendant place in sports events, first in athletics and marathon races, and then in multiple sports. In the early 1980s, Nike continued to implement its marketing, promotion and event sponsorship strategies (such as when Alberto Salazar, who used all brand apparel, won the New York Marathon).

The great success of this type of strategies of Nike resides in that the mark can arrive at several places at the same time, through the transmission of the event in itself, and thanks to the fact that the mark appears in the news and photos journalistic from Always next to the winners. But perhaps the most important point is that the consumer, a great admirer of the sport, sees in the triumph of the athlete in the image of the athlete and Nike as a whole. Another of Nike’s distinctive features in terms of strategies is to add talents to the company to strengthen its position within the world of professional sports. An example of this is the aforementioned case of Alberto Salazar, who after a successful career as a broker, was hired as a marketing consultant for the company. The same Salazar, In an interview with ‘’, clarified that “all sports marketing departments have been given the goals for identifying Nike with contracts to elite athletes, teams and events. In this way, these three points are used to promote the brand . ” And he adds that “that’s basically the work in the sports marketing area.” 

Nike plays first
In order for the image of Nike to enter the orbit of global brands, it was important not only marketing strategies but also advertising creativity. Nike initially had the attention of two agencies: the prestigious Chiat / Day, based in Los Angeles, and Wieden & Kennedy (W & K), Portland, Oregon. While the small creative boutique W & K began his relationship with Nike in 1982, until mid-1984 it was only called “the other agency”.

W & K performed important tasks for Nike from its inception, such as advertising for the launch of Nike Air and basketball shoes, or advertising for the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984. Among the most remembered commercials carried Out by W & K in its early days, are Instant Karma and Revolution . In this last commercial, created in 1985, was used classic song of the Beatles: Revolution.

Nike Air, the lightest
The sports shoe boom came in the 1980s, and sneakers became the “symbol of social status among the young.” Thus, The classic rustic cloth footwear changed from being an exclusive product for sports practice, and became part of the daily clothing.

‘Nike Air’ was a prototype of sneakers that the American firm had been working on, in which the latest technology was applied. But it would only be in 1985, when the product finally hit the market. The characteristic of Nike Air was that it had ‘air bags’ in the sole of the footwear. These bags allowed the sneakers to be lighter than the conventional model.

The Nike Air model began to be a success for the products of the line of basketball, and continued until reaching all the categories: the secret resided in helping the athlete to have less weight. Today it is already common to see ‘air bags’ in all brands of sports shoes.

Mike, Spike and W & K
While the first campaigns with basketball player Michael Jordan, a young player from North Carolina who had recently entered the Chicago Bulls, were devised by Chiat / Day, Jordan’s popular image with Nike Would come from the hand of Wieden & Kennedy (W & K).

Jim Risworld, a young W & K editor passionate about basketball, knew that the figure of Michel Jordan was highly respected in the sporting environment. The unique personality of the basketball player stood out on and off the court. According to David Halberstam ‘s book “Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made” , Jim Risworld thought that “if Jordan was such an exemplary human being to win the accolades of the great Bill Russell (coach and former superstar of the Boston Celtics) then it was an exciting challenge for a man of publicity: how to reveal that special quality In a 30 second shoot . ” 

The answer for the editor of W & K would be given from the film ‘She’s Gotta Have It’, by that time unknown director Spike Lee. That was the first film the young filmmaker wrote, directed, produced, staged and starred in (in the role of Mars Blackman). In the film, the character played by Lee was a basketball fan, passionate about the Air Jordan, Who found it very difficult to choose between his love for sport and feeling for a woman.

For Jim Risworld, the idea of the Michael Jordan fan was great, because it gave him the ability to show all the qualities of Jordan as an athlete but, above all, as a human being. With an idea under his arm and nothing to lose, Risworld contacted Spike Lee and proposed that he play his character Mars Blackman but with Michael Jordan in the new ads of Nike.

In the first commercials, appeared the pair ‘Mike and Spike’: after showing the sports skills of the basketball player, Lee’s character told the camera blunt sentences like ‘It’s gotta be the shoes’.

The campaign was a success for Nike. The sports brand and W & K’s mix of Michael Jordan and Spike Lee set a creative path in the advertising environment: a simple idea with a clear advertising message could spark a conversation with consumers. In W & K commercials, basketball, like any other sporting discipline, could be beautiful, and Jordan’s figure was presented as the best man.

Nike began to be on everyone’s lips, even from non-consumers, and the small Portland agency came to occupy a central place in advertising advertising the brand. Michael Jordan began his promotion career as a superstar in the Chicago Bulls and became the ‘Nike image athlete’, to the point that, when consumers went to the stores, Long before Jordan had his own line of company products, were already ordering Mike’s new sneakers.

In turn, Jordan was called “the greatest basketball player in the world”, and became a sporting and cultural icon. For his part, Spike Lee was the generator of a new layer of directors and even directed, himself, exclusive commercials for Nike. Currently, Michael Jordan has retired from professional basketball and, after 15 years, no more advertising for Nike. The former NBA player (National Basketball Association) is today an entrepreneur with his own sportswear label, endorsed by Nike.

‘Just do it’
The growth of the small agency of Portland, and the one of Nike went of the hand. But in the footwear industry there were big competitors. The most important of all was, without a doubt, Reebok. The English brand had gone from net profits of $ 1.5 million in 1981 to $ 919 million in 1986. Reebok’s uniqueness lay in fashion trends: his sports shoes were favorites among New young consumers, for the use of leather, while the English label was betting on new practices, such as aerobics .

But it would be the imperative slogan ‘Just do it’ , created by Dan Wieden in 1988, which would take the image of Nike to a global status and would leave Reebok in second place.

The new slogan became one of the icons of Nike. The validity of ‘Just do it’ for more than nine years in the use of different campaigns shows this. The phrase appeared on the end plate of many television advertisements until always present in the graphics and radio spots. ‘Just do it’ exceeded all expectations in relation to marketing and went beyond advertising to become a common language phrase. It was undoubtedly the most famous slogan and the key that allowed Nike to become known throughout the world.

In the case of Michael Jordan, the best thing was to make the slogan credible and real, and also to help turn the image of Nike into a cultural icon that connected the attitude of the sport with other spheres of society. Nike was no longer talking about products but sport in everyday life and as a way to feel healthy. To such a point, it was seldom necessary to show the footwear in Jordan’s advertisements; Just the imposing image of the player in action, the word Nike with the infallible Swoosh and, as final brooch, the ‘Just do it’ .

Outside of Jordan, the advertising agency Wieden & Kennedy set a course for Nike, because the ads created by it led the brand a step beyond everything known. W & K chose to create its own model in the form of how to communicate a brand, in a world dominated by advertising images in which everything had to be perfect, neat, white and formal. W & K, on the other hand, Showed scenarios and real situations of urban life: white and black people, ordinary people practicing sports and doing exercises in real places, such as the street or the courtyard. The Nike ads were intended to show real people that the world could also be theirs and that it was not reserved only for sportsmen, because gambling and triumph were, above all, passion.

In subsequent reports, Phil Knight states that “sport is like rock & roll, because both are dominated by cultural forces, both speak with an international language and are, above all, emotions.” 

The global brand
The image of Nike is currently developed by various agencies, due to the company’s immense product portfolio. After the long relationship with Wieden & Kennedy, Defined as ‘marriage’, the brand had a brief ‘romance’ of three years with one of the most creative agencies in the United States: Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS & P), San Francisco.

GS & P did very good work for Nike, such as the slogan ‘I can’ , which helped to reposition the brand in the younger segments, such as skaters or in the segment dedicated to winter sports. But, above all, this agency added to the long list of awards of the brand, the desired Silver Lion Graphic in Cannes 2000 for the pieces Time sheet and TV guide.

Later, the ‘romance’ came to an end, and the brand returned to its first love of Portland: W & K, who, currently, develops the image of Nike in all countries in which the agency is based, Such as the United Kingdom, Japan and the Netherlands. For the rest of the countries, the chosen agencies are: the prestigious Remo Asatsu in Spain, the FCB network (with Giovanni) in Brazil, TBWA (with Whybin Lawrence) in Australia and The Jupiter Drawing Room in South Africa.

Nike plays for local
In Argentina, the image of Nike is developed by Ratto / BBDO, with Carlos Ratto as president of the agency. The relationship began in 1994, when Ratto / BBDO won the account in a bout contest of Latin American agencies, in which it competed with Brazil, Chile and Mexico.

The recognition of Nike for the creative work done by Ratto / BBDO, made the brand entrusted to the BBDO network its image also in Uruguay. An example of the development of the institutional image is the piece University of Miami welcome to Uruguay, Piece that was finalist in The New York Festival 99.

The Argentine creativity occupies an important place for the image of Nike. This is demonstrated by the location of some of the pieces created by Ratto / BBDO, such as Perros , a piece that was a finalist at the London Festival 2000. But how do you work with one of the most coveted accounts by the creative? The director of the Nike account, Pablo Ordoñez, told “Everything we present to Nike Argentina is sent to the parent company in Portland (Oregon, USA), including strategy, media buying, creativity and research “. In relation to advertising creativity, Pablo Ordoñez adds that Ratto / BBDO is working on “total freedom for the development of Nike communication, within the basic guidelines of the brand, which are governed by Nike of the United States.” 

In addition to looking after the brand’s creativity, the Argentine agency Ratto / BBDO is responsible for everything related to the purchase and planning of advertising space for Nike, as well as the strategic support area, research on the brand image and the Competition, testing and post-evaluation of the campaigns launched, as well as the Nike communication in specific events.

Sports practice in general, is widespread in Argentina, especially soccer, sport that has Nike as the official sponsor of the favorite team Boca Juniors. But this is not their only goal in this country, the brand also aims to promote other not so popular disciplines, such as athletics, with the 10 Km Marathon, an event organized by Nike. In relation to this sport, the “Run Help” campaign was launched, designed by Wieden & Kennedy.

The Nike figures
But the success of the Nike image was not just ‘Just do it’ . The success of the multinational company was to accompany the slogan with the election of the most recognized figures of the sport. No other brand placed so much emphasis on athletes or established such deep relationships with them.

Among the most important sport heroes are: Charles Barkley, Jason Williams, Tim Duncan, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton (all in basketball); Ken Griffey (in baseball); Bo Jackson (in baseball and American football); John McEnroe, André Agassi and Pete Sampras (in tennis); Ronaldo and Romario of Brazil, Edgar Davids of the Netherlands, Ben Olsen of the United States (in soccer); Maurice Greene, Marion Jones and Michael Jonson (in athletics) and Gabrielle Reece (in volleyball).

At the same time, Nike is official sponsor of the main sports equipment worldwide, as the selection of soccer of the United States and Brazil.

The latest acquisition of Nike is Tiger Woods golf player; Is expected to be the next Michael Jordan, hired for a record $ 100 million, for five years. It is worth mentioning that Woods had already been hired in 1996 for 40 million dollars, also for five years, but today is the protagonist of the last Nike campaign. One of the last events of Nike, was to become Official Sponsor of the Olympic Games, celebrated in Sydney last year.

Controversies and accusations
Based on the report on conditions in the workplace of Indonesian factories carried out in 1992 by Jeff Ballinger (American activist), which reported the situation of factory workers in Indonesia (marked by abuses In contracts, forced to work illegally with overload of hours and lack of hygiene by the factories, among the most important points), Nike began to suffer a series of controversies.

Ballinger’s statements became the kick-off of the human rights movements and student organizations of American university students. This was represented by the launch of the “Anti-Nike” campaign (against the exploitation of workers in third world countries) or the emergence of “Nikewatch”, a group that follows each one of Nike’s movements and controls its management In labor matters.

Since Ballinger’s report, accusations against Nike have been increasing and the impact on the media has come to a large extent: from boycotts at the very doors of Nike stores in the United States, to protests in different fields University students, to the look of the CBS chain in Ho Chi Minh City as Nike Town .

The origin of the allegations lies, for Nike, in its subcontracting system. According to Tom McCawley of the Financial Times: “The company does not manufacture its own footwear, but it orders hundreds of companies to work around the world . ” Nike’s response was to implement a ‘code of conduct’, in addition to conducting audits with top-line consultants such as Ernst & Young and PwC, and counting on the professional advice and participation of Andrew Young, the US ambassador to the UN , among others.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons in Nike’s case (which brought the issue of labor policies of large multinational corporations to the forefront of world public opinion outside their home countries) is that, in the The image of the brand is the conjunction of a whole: the good and the bad. Reason why, Communication strategies must be thought of in an integral way and not only in advertising terms.

For its part, ISL Worldwide, a marketing agency of the Union of European Football Associations (Uefa), had taken steps to create an exclusion zone of 3 kilometers in the last Euro 2000 Championship “The goal, according to ISL, was to” defend against the tactics of guerrilla marketers “that Nike had used in the previous Eurocopa.

Nike had to face other controversies, such as the strike of actors of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), against the production of commercials and requesting improvements in working conditions .

The future
Nike is strong today in all formats. A commercial of the mark emitted in television (and carried out by the athlete Marion Jones), left the end of the history to way and unknown, and could only be seen in Internet. Perhaps the most novel thing about this notice was that the navigator had the possibility to choose (more than four different ‘continuations’) to piacerethe end of the spot.

At its site , the company offers an engaging interactive game to boaters who visit the site. The idea, created by Wieden & Kennedy, shows athletes Marion Jones, Mark McGwire and Rob Kingw in action, pursued by automatic saws or snowballs. The navigator, who sees through the eyes of athletes, Can only save your life if you accept the challenge of the race. In the same tone of humor, the last Nike commercial showed the athlete Suzy Favor Hamilton in full flight against a depraved armed with an electric saw, to the best style of the cinema class B as in ‘Tuesday 13’ or ‘El loco de la chainsaw’. The TV spot was removed from US TV, after receiving a huge amount of protests. The truth is that Nike will continue to talk, because the communication and the image of the brand, still, and after 37 years of life, have not been able to be typecast. See Nike campaigns at To the best style of the cinema class B as in ‘Tuesday 13’ or ‘The madman of the chainsaw’. The TV spot was removed from US TV, after receiving a huge amount of protests. The truth is that Nike will continue to talk, because the communication and the image of the brand, still, and after 37 years of life, have not been able to be typecast. See Nike campaigns at To the best style of the cinema class B as in ‘Tuesday 13’ or ‘The madman of the chainsaw’. The TV spot was removed from US TV, after receiving a huge amount of protests. The truth is that Nike will continue to talk, because the communication and the image of the brand, still, and after 37 years of life, have not been able to be typecast.