Sunday, February 22, 2009

How Nike built a global empire with a Waffle Iron

By Nancy Delllaow Allen Grey Leslie Knewll Richard Hill Joey Dunlop

How did a small time importer of Japanese shoes in the early sixties become one of the largest sportswear manufacturers in the world? Its and interesting story as it comes from some very humble beginnings. It all started with a Graduate of business studies called Philip H. Knight who had some big ambitions. Even if he wasnt initially a designer his business know how later proved to be the making of the biggest sportswear company in the world.

It all started when Phillip was on one of his many trips to Japan. It was while sightseeing that he noticed the many innovations in the Japanese sports shoes compared to the brands he was used to seeing from Germany. He decided he could sell these shoes back in America and ordered a batch of 200, this was the companys first order.

This young graduate made money by selling his new Japanese Sneakers at athletics events. The shoes sold well but he still had to store them in his parents basement. However he still wasnt actually making any sneakers until his old track coach William Bowerman joined the company in 1964. Bowerman was a keen engineer and not just a runner and these skills would revolutionise the sportswear market.

It was William who came up with the name Nike for the company, saying that it had come to him in a dream late one night. It was also Bowerman who designed the companys first shoe. He did this with the slightly unusual method of pouring liquid rubber into the family waffle iron! He was proud of the way the sneakers had been developed, later deciding to call his first pair the Waffle sole.

The Waffle Sole really took off in the 70s with the 1972 Olympic Games. The shoe proved to be a revelation with many sportsmen and women. Especially distance runners who said that the sneaker was much more comfortable than its rivals after long runs.

The logo of the Nike brand could actually be considered more famous than the company itself. Even though it is recognised all over the world and has become a global symbol it was only designed for 20 dollars by a design student from the University of Portland who was on placement. It has been used on every Nike product since its creation.

Nike really started to push the boundaries of what could be done in the 70s with the invention of an air heel which allowed the sneakers to give even more spring. The sole was actually designed by a former airplane designer who wanted to give the shoes the best cushion effect possible. The design is still seen in the Nike Shox of today.

As far as promotion went Nike proved to be masters of the game. In the late 80s Nike signed one of the biggest basket ball stars to ever live in Michael Jordan. He was paid to wear a new sneaker made just for him called Air Jordans. It proved problematic however as they did not conform to the dress code of the NBA and he was fined thousands of dollars every time he wore them.

Every time Michael wore the special sneakers on the court he was fined five thousand dollars by the NBA. Nike paid the fine for Michael and if anything it only made the brand even more famous. Air Jordans became the most sought after basketball shoes on the planet and number one Christmas present request with many children in the 80s.

As you can see it wasnt a simple road to success for Nike or even a conventional one. It was also a team effort between a young business entrepreneur and a sports fanatic, but you could say it all started with a bored engineer who looked at his waffle iron and decided to just do it. - 16651

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