Nike is inarguably one of the biggest sportswear brands on the planet. You may well have worn one or two of their clothing staples over the years!
Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, Nike has continued to emerge as a brand that millions of people recognise virtually anywhere on earth.
But how much do we really know about that iconic tick logo and their fantastic apparel? Here’s some surprising facts about Nike, so dive in and check out these stats…
1. How do YOU pronounce it?
Let’s get this out of the way first – how do you pronounce ‘Nike’? Some believe it rhymes with ‘bike’ or ‘like’, but it actually rhymes with ‘spiky’ – you say it ‘ny-kee’.
2. Where does the name come from?
Nike’s name is something that has fascinated millions of people. It’s thought to derive from the Greek legend of the same name, depicted as the personification of victory. A woman with wings, Nike was seen as a companion to Zeus, the elder God in Greek legend.
3. But what does Nike mean?
Beyond this, however, the jury is out in terms of the actual meaning of the word ‘Nike’. It’s thought to have several different meanings and connotations across languages and tongues throughout the world. Many believe it relates most of all to the concept of ‘attack’.
4. Nike is a major employer.
Nike employs more than 70,000 people worldwide, from sales and marketing to manufacturing and design.
5. It’s been around for six decades.
The brand first started life back in 1964 and was originally known as the very different ‘Blue Ribbon Sports’. It wasn’t until 1971 that the brand changed its name to Nike – and the rest, as they say, is history. However, that’d make for a pretty short fact file – so let’s keep digging!
6. It was an overnight success.
The brand and company witnessed an incredible amount of corporate growth in just their first few years of trading. In fact, by the end of the first year’s trading, Nike claimed around $8,000 in revenue.
This grew to such an extent that Nike, or Blue Ribbon Sports, was able to open up its first physical store in its third year. That’s an incredible ascent for a home-grown, car-boot-sales operation!
7. There are themed offices at Nike HQ.
Nike has an enormous headquarters and estate built into the backyard of Beaverton, Oregon. It’s home to a variety of fields and waterways as well as buildings. In fact, you’ll find that many of the HQ’s fields and offices are named after famous sports stars. These are as diverse as Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm, John McEnroe and Cristiano Ronaldo.
8. Nike’s shopping capital is in the UK.
While Nike’s home is firmly based in Oregon, its biggest store worldwide is in London. Visitors can explore up to three floors of apparel and sportswear, and the building takes up to 42,000 square feet in space!
9. They weren’t always known for boots.
While Nike is best-known for its shoes and sneakers, the first product to ever feature the iconic logo and branding was a football cleat!
10. Their slogan has an odd origin.
Millions of people recognise the famous Nike slogan, ‘Just Do It’. This was created by the ad agency at Wieden+Kennedy. However, it’s said to have a bit of a grim backstory. Legend tells it that the slogan was inspired by the last words of executed murderer Gary Gilmore.
11. Nike really diversifies.
It’s thought that Nike sells around 900 million separate items from their catalogue each and every year. However, it’s not just clothes. The company also designs and provides footwear, sports equipment and more besides. If it has anything to do with sport and leisure, there is a good chance that Nike produces their own version of it!
12. Ever heard of smart clothing – beyond the obvious?
Nike is one of the first sportswear and apparel companies on the planet to embrace smart clothing. This means that some of their apparel can communicate with smartphones and tablets! In particular, the company has a patent for a shoe which has a communication device embedded.
13. Big names get behind Nike.
Nike has received hundreds of endorsements over the years from some of the world’s top athletes and sportspeople. However, did you know that the first to publicly endorse the brand was a tennis star? Specifically, it was court star Ilie Nastase, who first partnered with the company in 1972.
This endorsement may well have been trial and error for the company, as Nastase went on to be known for her playing temperament, facing a variety of fines and disqualifications during her career.
14. Nike’s moved out east.
Nike used to predominantly make all of its shoes and apparel in the US. However, it now has factories all over the world, with many out in the East in territories such as Vietnam.
15. They made The Beatles a big puller for their brand.
Nike was the first brand of any kind to use a Beatles song as part of a TV ad campaign. They used ‘Revolution No 9’ in an ad in 1978. A further song they used was ‘Revolution’, a 1968 hit which Nike used for their running shoes campaign in the mid to late 80s.
However, lawyers representing the brand actually took Nike to task over this, despite the fact that the company had actually cleared a fee of $250,000 to North American rightsholders. It was Apple Records, and the Beatles themselves, who launched the suit. It was settled out of court.
The late George Harrison in particular found Nike’s move to be distasteful. “Every Beatles song is going to be advertising women’s underwear and sausages,” he commented. “We’ve got to put a stop to it in order to set a precedent.” However, Yoko Ono would later allow use of the John Lennon song ‘Instant Karma’ in a Nike ad in 1988.
16. Nike’s been to the movies many, many times.
Nike has also designed a handful of iconic movie props. In particular, Marty McFly’s hoverboarding sneakers from Back To The Future Part II were the work of Nike’s designers and manufacturers.
17. Nike made Jordan’s fines worthwhile.
It’s thought that Michael Jordan received a $5,000 fine in every NBA game in which he wore Air Jordan sneakers, as a result of the shoes breaking certain league policies. However, as the star went on to make more than $90 million in one year from royalties, it’s likely the fines didn’t even scratch the surface.
18. Not every Nike product has made a splash.
Nike is seen as something of an innovator in sportswear. However, even a brand this large has experienced a few flops. One, in particular, was their 1991 line of golf shorts in acid wash denim – we can’t say we’d see Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy setting any trends in those!
19. Nike hates throwing things away.
The company is also famous for being a huge recycler. They are well-known for taking old shoes and sneakers and re-using them to create children’s playgrounds. Therefore, it is always worthwhile giving old shoes back to the manufacturer instead of just throwing them away.
20. They believe in fitness for all.
Nike offers many fitness aids and classes for free across the world. Not only is it possible for fans and active people to take part in free classes in their local cities, the company is known for producing free apps to help you get fit.
21. It’s a parent company for many lines.
The company owns a handful of other sportswear and apparel brands. For example, they are the parent company of Converse, a popular leisurewear line known for their iconic sneakers and shows. They also own Hurley, under their Nike Surfing line.
In fact, Converse as a company went bankrupt in 2001, prompting Nike to purchase the company and iconic line in 2003.
22. Nike advertising is hugely popular.
Nike is actually an Emmy-award winner. In fact, they’ve received two awards for their famous TV ads in the past 20 years.
While Nike has endorsed many people over the years, they’ve also been turned down on occasion. Alternative British band Chumbawamba, most famous for their international hit ‘Tubthumping (I Get Knocked Down)’, turned down a deal worth $1.5 million for their biggest song to feature in a Nike ad tying in with the FIFA World Cup.
23. You probably know of the famous tick!
The company’s logo is perhaps one of the world’s most recognisable. However, it only cost $35 to commission. The designer went on to receive over $640,000 for her iconic ‘tick’ or ‘swoosh’ design!
24. Nike backs education.
Nike has a strong partnership with the University of Oregon, in that the company still designs and manufactures the apparel and sportswear worn by the college football team. They’ve also donated millions of dollars over the years to help renovate and maintain track and field facilities there. Never forget where you come from!
25. Don’t mix your Carolinas!
Again, even the biggest companies are prone to mistakes occasionally! On designing a shirt for the South Carolina Panthers, the designers accidentally produced a look that incorporated the map for North Carolina – whoops.
26. How’s that for rebelling against your brand?
Nike once sponsored skateboarder and TV star Bam Margera, to wear their shoes. However, Margera didn’t actually like wearing their products, so sneakily wore other branded shoes while plastering the Nike logo over the top.
27. Before the days of Google Translate…
A famous Nike commercial from 1980 featured a Kenyan tribesman supposedly saying ‘Just Do It’ in his native tongue. However, it later transpired he was actually saying ‘I don’t want these, give me big shoes’.
28. Football owes a big debt to Nike.
Nike has been the official sportswear and apparel supplier for the NFL since 2012, and for the NBA since 2015.
29. Did Nike really used to use kitchen appliances?
It’s thought that Nike initially started making shoes with a waffle iron, allowing them to create unique grooves for running. It’s safe to say their processes have probably gotten a little more sophisticated since the early days!
30. They weren’t ready for the Shaq Attack…
Once again, not everyone wants a piece of the Nike fortune – particularly not Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most iconic basketball stars of all time. He famously attended a meeting with Nike officials in full Reebok gear. It’s thought that Shaq simply attended the meeting out of obligation and didn’t want anything to do with Nike!
31. You can’t buy Nike everywhere.
What’s more, not all sportswear and apparel stores sell Nike products. Most famously, Foot Locker ceased retailing high-end Nike products as far back as 2003, on the grounds that they felt they were too expensive to buy and sell on.
32. That said, they are market dominators.
It’s thought that Nike continues to dominate the athletic footwear market at least. To this day, around 62% of track shoes sold are said to be Nike branded or designed.
33. They don’t discriminate.
Nike is famous for its openness towards the people who wear its apparel, choosing not to discriminate purely for the sake of selling to athletes and athletic people. One of their famous mottos – and all-around ethos – is ‘if you have a body, you’re an athlete’.
34. However, their practices have found major critics.
The founder of Buzzfeed supposedly once tried to get the word ‘sweatshop’ printed on custom sneakers made by Nike.
35. Free shoes at high tide!
Around 80,000 pairs of shoes in various Nike lines went missing and sunk out at sea in the early 1990s. However, it’s said that some people still find these shoes floating to the surface to this day!
36. Nike started on a pittance.
Nike was actually founded on the basis of just $1,200, with Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight setting up business together. Bowerman was an athletics coach, while Knight was a runner – the perfect combination!
37. Sell, sell, sell!
It’s thought that if you invested just $1,000 in Nike’s IPO on the US stock markets in 1980, your money would now be worth more than $700,000. Time to cash out?
38. Manufacturing concerns, sadly, are rife.
Nike has faced manufacturing controversies over the years despite its generally positive image. It has faced accusations of sweatshop design and manufacturing, as well as links to the infamous Paradise Papers, which showed that that Nike had used offshore accounts in an attempt to increase profits.
39. Nike puts people on the road to build them up.
Nike has its own travelling brand ambassadors who go by their own specific titles – an ambassador or salesperson is known as an ‘Ekin’, which is ‘Nike’ backwards.
40. Doesn’t have the same ring to it…
The company’s name was very nearly ‘Dimension 6’, and it may very well have been, had Phil Knight had his way! Ultimately, ‘Nike’ won out.
41. Nike Golf was running long before Tiger.
Nike Golf is a branch of the company which famously took off in 1996 after the company signed the legendary Tiger Woods. However, the golf side of apparel has been running strong for the company since 1984.
42. How’s that for a historic find?
The director of Nike’s International Basketball division, George Raveling, holds a unique piece of history – Martin Luther King Jr provided him with the original typed script of his ‘I Have a Dream Speech’!
FAQs about Nike
What is Nike’s best selling shoe?
Nike’s biggest-selling shoe are the Air Force 1s - you’ll see them a lot!
What good does Nike do?
Nike has reportedly invested in hundreds of millions of dollars world-wide in community and education initiatives.
Why are the best Nike shoes expensive?
Nike shoes and branded products can reach high prices as they have to offset big celebrity endorsements!
Do you know any fun facts about Nike? Share them in the comments below!