How The Swoosh helped Nike become a global brand

boxes of nike sneakers

Everybody knows Nike, a brand that holds the title of “World’s Most Powerful Apparel Brand”. However, not enough know how it all began and where the incredible journey started from. It was 1965 when then-head of Blue Ribbon Sports, a man called Phil Knight, began sending letters he had written on a typewriter to coaches all around the United States. He had one idea in his mind, to make them interested in the sneakers that he was selling at the time.

A few years ago, Phil Knight retired as the board chairman at the company and his place was taken by former CEO Mark Parker. However, this iconic brand went through a lot until it became what it is today. In a press release, Knight said that that he always felt a responsibility towards the clients and will never stop having that feeling, even when his chairmanship ends. In this article, you will find out how the famous swoosh helped Nike become the global brand it is today.

How it all began

It is worth noting that before Nike there was Blue Ribbon Sports, a brand that helped Phil Knight move his idea forward with the help of his associate and good friend, Bill Bowerman. However, sneakers were not produced under the brand called Nike because there was a problem that concerned changing the name of the brand. Knight had an idea and it was “Dimension 6” but unfortunately, the 45 employees that the company had at the time disagreed.

It was their good friend Jeff Johnson who ultimately came up with the idea to call the brand “Nike”, a name that was inspired by the Greek goddess of victory. As for that famous swoosh, Knight commissioned it back in 1971 from a graphic design student called Carolyn Davidson for only $35. It seems that she needed 17 hours to come up with the brilliant idea of the swoosh. The iconic Nike logo font was then everywhere.

nike shoe

Numbers that Speak

Famous athlete sponsorships have always been a big part of the Nike brand, even from the beginning. This is why numbers can offer you a clear idea of how big this brand really is. In retrospect, it’s worth noting that back in 1972, Nike had $3.2 million in sales. Over the following ten years, its profits doubled. In 1980, Nike finally went public and overthrew German giant Adidas from its North American sportswear industry leader position. In case this topic captivates you, then you should definitely check out this list of the most popular sports logos.

It’s interesting that three years after that, Knight wanted to thank swoosh designer Carolyn Davidson and invited her to lunch. Apart from an envelope containing a secret amount of the brand’s stock, he also gave her a swoosh-engraved diamond ring. It was his way of admitting what a big role that iconic logo played when it came to Nike’s success. However, apart from the huge athlete sponsorships, it was great advertising that helped the brand greatly in becoming the leader it is today.

Athlete Sponsorships

If Phil Knight believed in something, that was the great power of athlete sponsorships. As years passed, Nike became able to transform successful professional athletes into worldwide superstars. The famous Michael Jordan deal was one of the first that cemented this reputation for the brand. The basketball idol actually began building his own brand under Knight’s Nike.

But what made Nike always thrive in such a competitive industry where success comes and goes fairly easily? According to experts, it was Knight’s excellent timing when it came to his business. He always knew when to take it easy and when to ride the waves. He adapted his brand and broadened its appeal. Nike extended into the lifestyle sneakers business too, which also contributed to its enormous success.


However, Nike’s imposing presence wasn’t always free of controversy. When things started to become serious, Knight understood that if he was to really expand, he needed to move the production to Asia. At the time, the company was in talks with a consumer who realized that Nike had links with sweatshop labor. But this brand wasn’t the only one doing so and soon, people forgot this controversy.


All in all, it seems that nobody will be able to overthrow Nike for a long time, even in a post-Knight era. With Mark Parker at the helm, the company is bound to continue its supreme reign for a few more years. It may sound pretty natural now but let’s not forget that once upon a time, it all began with a swoosh.


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