For a vast majority of sneaker consumers and sports fans, Nike remains the cool brand.
Many shoppers and supporters would trace this success back to 1985 with the release of the famous Air Jordan 1 shoe.
As big a marketing coup as there would ever be in the sports apparel world, there have been other key developments along the way that would separate the business apart from their competitors.
Going Public in 1980
Nike would experience a gradual rise in the 1970s, but this type of success would still be reasonably modest until the brand went public in 1980. Co-founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman took this important step forward at this time. This is the hallmark of any major organization that has designs on making it large, allowing their value to float and cash in on more investment. The 1980s was a boom period for the domestic economy as well, allowing the company to increase their capital-raising opportunities and provide more liquidity as they expanded their operation.
It’s Not Shoes – It’s Entertainment
There has been an overriding philosophy from Nike that has underpinned their success from day one. Although they are a sneaker and sports apparel designer by trade, co-founder Phil Knight proudly proclaimed they were not in the shoe business, but the entertainment business. That is the mindset that separated them from the other developers, striving to be the shoe producer that was talked about on basketball courts, school gyms and training fields across the country. It wasn’t enough to create the tangible product, but to generate that intangible obsession to be cool.
Major Athlete Endorsements
Aligning two successful brands is where the sneaker developer Nike has really altered the model for other businesses in this market. Once Adidas were naïve enough to pass on 1980s basketball prospect Michael Jordan, the rest as they say is history. When the great Chicago Bulls legend decided to retire with another championship in 1998, the organization would soon turn their attention to the likes of Tiger Woods and emerging talent LeBron James. This has spawned a series of lucrative endorsement deals, featuring European soccer megastar Kylian Mbappe, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Russell Westbrook from the Houston Rockets and the most valuable player in the MLB courtesy of Mike Trout.
Clever Marketing Ploys
Some of the success enjoyed by Nike would be circumstantial, but there have been key moments that detail their acumen for clever marketing strategies. The company would only pay $35 for ownership to the iconic swoosh logo back in 1972 before adopting their ‘Just do it’ mantra in 1988. What would appear like small gestures at the time have been masterstrokes, giving them the type of imagery and recognition that have made them known the world over.
A practice that has made Nike both a commercial juggernaut and a target for controversy has been their practice of manufacturing their goods through cheap labor in Asia. This is a strategy that has introduced a lot of unwanted attention from the press, but it has been a method that has allowed them to drive up profits and reinvest that revenue back into their global marketing operation. Provisions and legislations have been introduced to place pressure on this business model, but it has undoubtedly been a major driver for their expansion moving forward.
The level of competition that Nike now faces is as fierce as ever. Their commercial cut-through and pop culture impact has only made them a bigger target, seeing the likes of Adidas, Reebok, Under Armour and New Balance achieving market share. Yet they do remain the cool brand for athletes, sports leagues and the general consumer at large because they were first on the scene with these advancements.