NIKE, Inc. History
Beaverton, Oregon 97005-6453
Telephone: (503) 671-6453
Fax: (503) 671-6300
Incorporated: 1968 as Blue Ribbon Sports
Sales: $8.78 billion (1999)
Stock Exchanges: New York Pacific
Ticker Symbol: NKE
NAIC: 316219 Other Footwear Manufacturing; 315220 Men's and Boys' Cut and Sew Apparel Manufacturing; 315230 Women's and Girls' Cut and Sew Apparel Manufacturing; 339920 Sporting and Athletic Goods Manufacturing; 422340 Footwear Wholesalers; 448190 Other Clothing Stores; 448210 Shoe Stores
Nike's Corporate Mission Statement: 'To be the world's leading sports and fitness company.' Key Dates:
- Philip H. Knight founds Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS) to import Japanese running shoes.
- BRS takes its first delivery of 200 shoes from Onitsuka Tiger Co.
- BRS becomes partnership between Knight and William Bowerman.
- The company's first retail outlet opens.
- Company is incorporated; the Bowerman-designed Cortez shoe becomes a big seller.
- BRS begins manufacturing its own products overseas, through subcontractors; the Swoosh trademark and the Nike brand are introduced.
- At the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials, the Nike brand is promoted for the first time; company enters its first foreign market, Canada.
- Company changes its name to Nike, Inc.
- First line of clothing is launched and the Nike Air shoe cushioning device debuts.
- Nike goes public.
- Nike International, Ltd. is created to spearhead overseas push.
- Company signs Michael Jordan to endorse a version of its Air shoe--the 'Air Jordan.'
- Cole Haan, maker of casual and dress shoes, is acquired; 'Just Do It' slogan debuts.
- First NikeTown retail outlet opens in Portland, Oregon.
- Revenues reach $3 billion.
- Company acquires Canstar Sports Inc., the leading maker of skates and hockey equipment in the world, later renamed Bauer Nike Hockey Inc.
- Company signs golfer Tiger Woods to a 20-year, $40 million endorsement deal.
- The Nike equipment division is created.
- Company begins selling its products directly to consumers via its web site.
2003: Nike acquired major competitor Converse in a deal costing $309 million.
2004: Nike acquires Starter, another competitor, later divesting its ownership in 2007.
2008: Nike acquires Umbro, an English manufacturer, later divesting its ownership in 2012.
2012: Nike begins an $8 billion stock buy-back program.
Founded as an importer of Japanese shoes, NIKE, Inc. (Nike) has grown to be the world's largest marketer of athletic footwear and apparel. In the United States, Nike products are sold through about 20,000 retail accounts; worldwide, the company's products are sold in about 110 countries. Both domestically and overseas Nike operates retail stores, including NikeTowns and factory outlets. Nearly all of the items are manufactured by independent contractors, primarily located overseas, with Nike involved in the design, development, and marketing. In addition to its wide range of core athletic shoes and apparel, the company also sells Nike and Bauer brand athletic equipment, Cole Haan brand dress and casual footwear, and the Sports Specialties line of headwear featuring licensing team logos. The company has relied on consistent innovation in the design of its products and heavy promotion to fuel its growth in both U.S. and foreign markets. The ubiquitous presence of the Nike brand and its Swoosh trademark led to a backlash against the company by the late 20th century, particularly in relation to allegations of low wages and poor working conditions at the company's Asian contract manufacturers.
Nike's precursor originated in 1962, a product of the imagination of Philip H. Knight, a Stanford University business graduate who had been a member of the track team as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon. Traveling in Japan after finishing up business school, Knight got in touch with a Japanese firm that made athletic shoes, the Onitsuka Tiger Co., and arranged to import some of its products to the United States on a small scale. Knight was convinced that Japanese running shoes could become significant competitors for the German products that then dominated the American market. In the course of setting up his agreement with Onitsuka Tiger, Knight invented Blue Ribbon Sports to satisfy his Japanese partner's expectations that he represented an actual company, and this hypothetical firm eventually grew to become Nike, Inc.
At the end of 1963, Knight's arrangements in Japan came to fruition when he took delivery of 200 pairs of Tiger athletic shoes, which he stored in his father's basement and peddled at various track meets in the area. Knight's one-man venture became a partnership in the following year, when his former track coach, William Bowerman, chipped in $500 to equal Knight's investment. Bowerman had long been experimenting with modified running shoes for his team, and he worked with runners to improve the designs of prototype Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS) shoes. Innovation in running shoe design eventually would become a cornerstone of the company's continued expansion and success. Bowerman's efforts first paid off in 1968, when a shoe known as the Cortez, which he had designed, became a big seller.
BRS sold 1,300 pairs of Japanese running shoes in 1964, its first year, to gross $8,000. By 1965 the fledgling company had acquired a full-time employee and sales had reached $20,000. The following year, the company rented its first retail space, next to a beauty salon in Santa Monica, California, so that its few employees could stop selling shoes out of their cars. In 1967 with fast-growing sales, BRS expanded operations to the East Coast, opening a distribution office in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Bowerman's innovations in running shoe technology continued throughout this time. A shoe with the upper portion made of nylon went into development in 1967, and the following year Bowerman and another employee came up with the Boston shoe, which incorporated the first cushioned mid-sole throughout the entire length of an athletic shoe.
Emergence of Nike in 1970s
By the end of the decade, Knight's venture had expanded to include several stores and 20 employees and sales were nearing $300,000. The company was poised for greater growth, but Knight was frustrated by a lack of capital to pay for expansion. In 1971 using financing from the Japanese trading company Nissho Iwai Corporation, BRS was able to manufacture its own line of products overseas, through independent contractors, for import to the United States. At this time, the company introduced its Swoosh trademark and the brand name Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. These new symbols were initially affixed to a soccer shoe, the first Nike product to be sold.
A year later, BRS broke with its old Japanese partner, Onitsuka Tiger, after a disagreement over distribution, and kicked off promotion of its own products at the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials, the first of many marketing campaigns that would seek to attach Nike's name and fortunes to the careers of well-known athletes. Nike shoes were geared to the serious athlete, and their high performance carried with it a high price.
In their first year of distribution, the company's new products grossed $1.96 million and the corporate staff swelled to 45. In addition, operations were expanded to Canada, the company's first foreign market, which would be followed by Australia, in 1974.
Bowerman continued his innovations in running-shoe design with the introduction of the Moon shoe in 1972, which had a waffle-like sole that had first been formed by molding rubber on a household waffle iron. This sole increased the traction of the shoe without adding weight.
In 1974 BRS opened its first U.S. plant, in Exeter, New Hampshire. The company's payroll swelled to 250, and worldwide sales neared $5 million by the end of 1974. This growth was fueled in part by aggressive promotion of the Nike brand name. The company sought to expand its visibility by having its shoes worn by prominent athletes, including tennis players Ilie Nastase and Jimmy Connors. At the 1976 Olympic Trials these efforts began to pay off as Nike shoes were worn by rising athletic stars.
The company's growth had truly begun to take off by this time, riding the boom in popularity of jogging that took place in the United States in the late 1970s. BRS revenues tripled in two years to $14 million in 1976, and then doubled in just one year to $28 million in 1977. To keep up with demand, the company opened new factories, adding a stitching plant in Maine and additional overseas production facilities in Taiwan and Korea. International sales were expanded when markets in Asia were opened in 1977 and in South America the following year. European distributorships were lined up in 1978.
Nike continued its promotional activities with the opening of Athletics West, a training club for Olympic hopefuls in track and field, and by signing tennis player John McEnroe to an endorsement contract. In 1978 the company changed its name to Nike, Inc. The company expanded its line of products that year, adding athletic shoes for children.
By 1979 Nike sold almost half the running shoes bought in the United States, and the company moved into a new world headquarters building in Beaverton, Oregon. In addition to its shoe business, the company began to make and market a line of sports clothing, and the Nike Air shoe cushioning device was introduced.
1980s Growth Through International Expansion and Aggressive Marketing
By the start of the 1980s, Nike's combination of groundbreaking design and savvy and aggressive marketing had allowed it to surpass the German athletic shoe company Adidas AG, formerly the leader in U.S. sales. In December 1980, Nike went public, offering two million shares of stock. With the revenues generated by the stock sale, the company planned continued expansion, particularly in the European market. In the United States, plans for a new headquarters on a large, rural campus were inaugurated, and an East Coast distribution center in Greenland, New Hampshire, was brought on line. In addition, the company bought a large plant in Exeter, New Hampshire, to house the Nike Sport Research and Development Lab and also to provide for more domestic manufacturing capacity. The company had shifted its overseas production away from Japan at this point, manufacturing nearly four-fifths of its shoes in South Korea and Taiwan. It established factories in mainland China in 1981.
By the following year, when the jogging craze in the United States had started to wane, half of the running shoes bought in the United States bore the Nike trademark. The company was well insulated from the effects of a stagnating demand for running shoes, however, since it gained a substantial share of its sales from other types of athletic shoes, notably basketball shoes and tennis shoes. In addition, Nike benefited from strong sales of its other product lines, which included apparel, work and leisure shoes, and children's shoes.
Given the slowing of growth in the U.S. market, however, the company turned its attention to growth in foreign markets, inaugurating Nike International, Ltd. in 1981 to spearhead the company's push into Europe and Japan, as well as into Asia, Latin America, and Africa. In Europe, Nike faced stiff competition from Adidas and Puma, which had a strong hold on the soccer market, Europe's largest athletic shoe category. The company opened a factory in Ireland to enable it to distribute its shoes without paying high import tariffs, and in 1981 bought out its distributors in England and Austria, to strengthen its control over marketing and distribution of its products. In 1982 the company outfitted Aston Villa, the winning team in the English and European Cup soccer championships, giving a boost to promotion of its new soccer shoe.
In Japan, Nike allied itself with Nissho Iwai, the sixth largest Japanese trading company, to form Nike-Japan Corporation. Because Nike already held a part of the low-priced athletic shoe market, the company set its sights on the high-priced end of the scale in Japan.
By 1982 the company's line of products included more than 200 different kinds of shoes, including the Air Force I, a basketball shoe, and its companion shoe for racquet sports, the Air Ace, the latest models in the long line of innovative shoe designs that had pushed Nike's earnings to an average annual increase of almost 100 percent. In addition, the company marketed more than 200 different items of clothing. By 1983--when the company posted its first-ever quarterly drop in earnings as the running boom peaked and went into a decline--Nike's leaders were looking to the apparel division, as well as overseas markets, for further expansion. In foreign sales, the company had mixed results. Its operations in Japan were almost immediately profitable, and the company quickly jumped to second place in the Japanese market, but in Europe, Nike fared less well, losing money on its five European subsidiaries.
Faced with an 11.5 percent drop in domestic sales of its shoes in the 1984 fiscal year, Nike moved away from its traditional marketing strategy of support for sporting events and athlete endorsements to a wider-reaching approach, investing more than $10 million in its first national television and magazine advertising campaign. This followed the 'Cities Campaign,' which used billboards and murals in nine American cities to publicize Nike products in the period before the 1984 Olympics. Despite the strong showing of athletes wearing Nike shoes in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games, Nike profits were down almost 30 percent for the fiscal year ending in May 1984, although international sales were robust and overall sales rose slightly. This decline was a result of aggressive price discounting on Nike products and the increased costs associated with the company's push into foreign markets and attempts to build up its sales of apparel.
Earnings continued to fall in the next three quarters as the company lost market share, posting profits of only $7.8 million at the end of August 1984, a loss of $2.2 million three months later, and another loss of $2.1 million at the end of February 1985. In response, Nike adopted a series of measures to change its sliding course. The company cut back on the number of shoes it had sitting in warehouses and also attempted to fine-tune its corporate mission by cutting back on the number of products it marketed. It made plans to reduce the line of Nike shoes by 30 percent within a year and a half. In addition, leadership at the top of the company was streamlined, as founder Knight resumed the post of president--which he had relinquished in 1983--in addition to his duties as chairman and chief executive officer. Overall administrative costs were also reduced. As part of this effort, Nike also consolidated its research and marketing branches, closing its facility in Exeter, New Hampshire, and cutting 75 of the plant's 125 employees. Overall, the company laid off about 400 workers during 1984.
Faced with shifting consumer interests (i.e., the U.S. market move from jogging to aerobics), the company created a new products division in 1985 to help keep pace. In addition, Nike purchased Pro-form, a small maker of weightlifting equipment, as part of its plan to profit from all aspects of the fitness movement. The company was restructured further at the end of 1985 when its last two U.S. factories were closed and its previous divisions of apparel and athletic shoes were rearranged by sport. In a move that would prove to be the key to the company's recovery, in 1985 the company signed basketball player Michael Jordan to endorse a new version of its Air shoe, introduced four years earlier. The new basketball shoes bore the name 'Air Jordan.'
In early 1986 Nike announced expansion into a number of new lines, including casual apparel for women, a less expensive line of athletic shoes called Street Socks, golf shoes, and tennis gear marketed under the name 'Wimbledon.' By mid-1986 Nike was reporting that its earnings had begun to increase again, with sales topping $1 billion for the first time. At that point, the company sold its 51 percent stake in Nike-Japan to its Japanese partner; six months later, Nike laid off ten percent of its U.S. employees at all levels in a major cost-cutting strategy.
Following these moves, Nike announced a drop in revenues and earnings in 1987, and another round of restructuring and budget cuts ensued, as the company attempted to come to grips with the continuing evolution of the U.S. fitness market. Only Nike's innovative Air athletic shoes provided a bright spot in the company's otherwise erratic progress, allowing the company to regain market share from rival Reebok International Ltd. in several areas, including basketball and cross-training.
The following year, Nike branched out from athletic shoes, purchasing Cole Haan, a maker of casual and dress shoes, for $80 million. Advertising heavily, the company took a commanding lead in sales to young people to claim 23 percent of the overall athletic shoe market. Profits rebounded to reach $100 million in 1988, as sales rose 37 percent to $1.2 billion. Later that year, Nike launched a $10 million television campaign around the theme 'Just Do It' and announced that its 1989 advertising budget would reach $45 million.
In 1989 Nike marketed several new lines of shoes and led its market with $1.7 billion in sales, yielding profits of $167 million. The company's product innovation continued, including the introduction of a basketball shoe with an inflatable collar around the ankle, sold under the brand name Air Pressure. In addition, Nike continued its aggressive marketing, using ads featuring Michael Jordan and actor-director Spike Lee, the ongoing 'Just Do It' campaign, and the 'Bo Knows' television spots featuring athlete Bo Jackson. At the end of 1989, the company began relocation to its newly constructed headquarters campus in Beaverton, Oregon.
Market Dominance in the Early to Mid-1990s
In 1990 the company sued two competitors for copying the patented designs of its shoes and found itself engaged in a dispute with the U.S. Customs Service over import duties on its Air Jordan basketball shoes. In 1990 the company's revenues hit $2 billion. The company acquired Tetra Plastics Inc., producers of plastic film for shoe soles. That year, the company opened NikeTown, a prototype store selling the full range of Nike products, in Portland, Oregon.
By 1991 Nike's Visible Air shoes had enabled it to surpass its rival Reebok in the U.S. market. In the fiscal year ending May 31, 1991, Nike sales surpassed the $3 billion mark, fueled by record sales of 41 million pairs of Nike Air shoes and a booming international market. Its efforts to conquer Europe had begun to bear fruit; business there grew by 100 percent that year, producing more than $1 billion in sales and gaining the second place market share behind Adidas. Nike's U.S. shoe market had, in large part, matured, slowing to five percent annual growth, down from 15 percent annual growth from 1980 and 1988. The company began eyeing overseas markets and predicted ample room to grow in Europe. Nike's U.S. rival Reebok, however, also saw potential for growth in Europe, and by 1992 European MTV was glutted with athletic shoe advertisements as the battle for the youth market heated up between Nike, Reebok, and their European competitors, Adidas and Puma.
Nike also saw growth potential in its women's shoe and sports apparel division. In February 1992 Nike began a $13 million print and television advertising pitch for its women's segment, built upon its 'Dialogue' print campaign, which had been slowly wooing 18- to 34-year-old women since 1990. Sales of Nike women's apparel lines Fitness Essentials, Elite Aerobics, Physical Elements, and All Condition Gear increased by 25 percent in both 1990 and 1991 and jumped by 68 percent in 1992.
In July 1992 Nike opened its second NikeTown retail store in Chicago, Illinois. Like its predecessor in Portland, the Chicago NikeTown was designed to 'combine the fun and excitement of FAO Schwartz, the Smithsonian Institute and Disneyland in a space that will entertain sports and fitness fans from around the world' as well as provide a high-profile retail outlet for Nike's rapidly expanding lines of footwear and clothing.
Nike celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1992, virtually debt free and with company revenues of $3.4 billion. Gross profits jumped $100 million in that year, fueled by soaring sales in its retail division, which expanded to include 30 Nike-owned discount outlets and the two NikeTowns. To celebrate its anniversary, Nike brought out its old slogan 'There is no finish line.' As if to underscore that sentiment, Nike Chairman Philip Knight announced massive plans to remake the company with the goal of being 'the best sports and fitness company in the world.' To fulfill that goal, the company set the ground plans for a complicated yet innovative marketing structure seeking to make the Nike brand into a worldwide megabrand along the lines of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sony, and Disney.
Nike continued expansion of its high-profile NikeTown chain, opening outlets in Atlanta, Georgia, in the spring of 1993 and Costa Mesa, California, later that year. Also in 1993, as part of its long-term marketing strategy, Nike began an ambitious venture with Mike Ovitz's Creative Artists Agency to organize and package sports events under the Nike name--a move that potentially led the company into competition with sports management giants such as ProServ, IMG, and Advantage International.
Nike also began a more controversial venture into the arena of sports agents, negotiating contracts for basketball's Scottie Pippin, Alonzo Mourning, and others in addition to retaining athletes such as Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley as company spokespersons. Nike's influence in the world of sports grew to such a degree that in 1993 Sporting News dubbed Knight the most powerful man in sports.
Critics contended that Nike's influence ran too deep, having its hand in negotiating everything in an athlete's life from investments to the choice of an apartment. But Nike's marketing executives saw it as part of a campaign to create an image of Nike not just as a product line but as a lifestyle, a 'Nike attitude.'
Nearly everyone agreed, however, that Nike was the dominant force in athletic footwear in the early to mid-1990s. The company held about 30 percent of the U.S. market by 1995, far outdistancing the 20 percent of its nearest rival, Reebok. Overseas revenues continued their steady rise, reaching nearly $2 billion by 1995, about 40 percent of the overall total. Not content with its leading position in athletic shoes and its growing sales of athletic apparel--which accounted for more than 30 percent of revenues in 1996--Nike branched out into sports equipment in the mid-1990s. In 1994 the company acquired Canstar Sports Inc., the leading maker of skates and hockey equipment in the world, for $400 million. Canstar was renamed Bauer Nike Hockey Inc., Bauer being Canstar's brand name for its equipment. Two years later Bauer Nike became part of the newly formed Nike equipment division, which aimed to extend the company into the marketing of sport balls, protective gear, eyewear, and watches. Also during this period, Nike signed up its next superstar spokesperson, Tiger Woods. In 1995, at the age of 20, Woods agreed to a 20-year, $40 million endorsement contract. The golf phenom went on to win an inordinate number of tournaments, often shattering course records, and to become only the second golfer in history to win three 'majors' within a single year, more than validating the blockbuster contract.
Late 1990s Slippage
For the fiscal year ending in May 1997, Nike earned a record $795.8 million on record revenues of $9.19 billion. Overseas sales played a large role in the 42 percent increase in revenues from 1996 to 1997. Sales in Asia increased by more than $500 million (to $1.24 billion), while European sales surged ahead by $450 million. Back home, Nike's share of the U.S. athletic shoe market neared 50 percent. The picture at Nike soon turned sour, however, as the Asian financial crisis that erupted in the summer of 1997 sent sneaker sales in that region plunging. By fiscal 1999, sales in Asia had dropped to $844.5 million. Compounding the company's troubles was a concurrent stagnation of sales in its domestic market, where the fickle tastes of teenagers began turning away from athletic shoes to hiking boots and other casual 'brown shoes.' As a result, overall sales for 1999 fell to $8.78 billion. Profits were falling as well--including a net loss of $67.7 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 1998, the company's first reported loss in more than 13 years. The decline in net income led to a cost-cutting drive that included the layoff of five percent of the workforce, or 1,200 people, in 1998, and the slashing of its budget for sports star endorsements by $100 million that same year.
Nike was also dogged throughout the late 1990s by protests and boycotts over allegations regarding the treatment of workers at the contract factories in Asia that employed nearly 400,000 people and that made the bulk of Nike shoes and much of its apparel. Charges included abuse of workers, poor working conditions, low wages, and use of child labor. Nike's initial reaction--which was highlighted by Knight's insistence that the company had little control over its suppliers--resulted in waves of negative publicity. Protesters included church groups, students at universities that had apparel and footwear contracts with Nike, and socially conscious investment funds. Nike finally announced in mid-1998 a series of changes affecting its contract workforce in Asia, including an increase in the minimum age, a tightening of air quality standards, and a pledge to allow independent inspections of factories. Nike nonetheless remained under pressure from activists into the 21st century. Nike, along with McDonald's Corporation, the Coca-Cola Company, and Starbucks Corporation, among others, also became an object of protest from those who were attacking multinational companies that pushed global brands. This undercurrent of hostility burst into the spotlight in late 1999 when some of the more aggressive protesters against a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle attempted to storm a NikeTown outlet.
Seeking to recapture the growth of the early to mid-1990s, Nike pursued a number of new initiatives in the late 1990s. Having initially missed out on the trend toward extreme sports (such as skateboarding, mountain biking, and snowboarding), Nike attempted to rectify this miscue by establishing a unit called ACG&mdash⁄ort for 'all-conditions gear'--in 1998. Two years later, the company created a new division called Techlab to market a line of sports-technology accessories, such as a digital audio player, a high-altitude wrist compass, and a portable heart-rate monitor. Both of these initiatives were aimed at capturing sales from the emerging Generation Y demographic group. In early 1999 Nike began selling its shoes and other products directly to consumers via the company web site. Nike announced in September of that year that it would buy about ten percent of Fogdog Inc., which ran a sporting goods e-commerce site, in exchange for granting Fogdog the exclusive online rights to sell the full Nike line. The company finally earned some good publicity in 1999 when it sponsored the U.S. national women's soccer team that won the Women's World Cup. With its record of innovative product design and savvy promotion and an aggressive approach to containing costs and revitalizing sales, Nike appeared likely to stage an impressive comeback in the early 21st century.
Nike has long had a reputation for responsible environmental practices. According to Clean Air-Cool Planet (a New England-based environmental organization), Nike ranks in the top three companies (out of 56 surveyed) in a report of climate-friendly companies. As an example, Nike launched a campaign to coincide with Earth Day 2008. It featured a commercial with NBA basketball star Steve Nash wearing Nike's Trash Talk Shoe, which was constructed from pieces of leather and synthetic leather waste from factory floors. The Trash Talk Shoe sole was made from ground-up rubber from a shoe recycling program. However, only 5,000 pairs where ever produced for sale.
Another project Nike began long before the Green craze in 1993- is labeled: Reuse-A-Shoe program. The program aims to help the environment and the community by collecting old athletic shoes of any make in order to reprocess and recycle them. The material that is collected is then used to manufacture sports surfaces such as basketball courts, running tracks, and playgrounds.
Principal Subsidiaries: Cole Haan Holdings Incorporated; Nike Team Sports, Inc.; Nike IHM, Inc.; Bauer Nike Hockey Inc.
Principal Competitors: adidas-Salomon AG; Callaway Golf Company; Converse Inc.; Deckers Outdoor Corporation; Fila Holding S.p.A.; Fortune Brands, Inc.; Fruit of the Loom, Ltd.; FUBU; HI-TEC Sports USA Inc.; Levi Strauss & Co.; Nautica Enterprises, Inc.; New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.; Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation; Puma AG; R. Griggs Group Limited; Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc.; Reebok International Ltd.; Rollerblade, Inc.; Russell Corporation; Sara Lee Corporation; Skechers U.S.A., Inc.; Spalding Holdings Corporation; The Stride Rite Corporation; The Timberland Company; Timex Corporation; Tommy Hilfiger Corporation; VF Corporation; Wolverine World Wide, Inc.
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