11 Things Hardly Anyone Knows About Nike

Nike turned 50 this year. To celebrate, a UK gym, My Fitness Boutique, has created this infographic to celebrate the shoe and apparel company’s five decades in business.

We’ve picked out some of the most interesting factlets from the infographic, and a few snippets from around the web, that many people may never have known about the world’s most famous sports brand.

1. Nike was founded in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports and initially operated as a distributor for the Japanese shoemaker Onitsuka Tiger (now known as Asics). It officially became Nike Inc. in 1971.

blue ribbon sportsYouTube/FastCompany

2. The company was founded with just $1,200 in the bank. It was created by Bill Bowerman — a track-and-field coach — and Phil Knight, a middle-distance runner from Portland who was enrolled in the University of Oregon.

Phil Knight NikeNikeNike cofounder and chairman Phil Knight.

3. Knight had originally wanted to call the company “Dimension 6.” The Nike name comes from the Greek goddess of victory, and it’s pronounced “ny’-kee.” Nike’s first employee, Jeff Johnson, came up with the name.

nike goddessWikimedia Creative Commons 4. The first Nike shoes were made inside a waffle iron. Bowerman’s first eureka moment for footwear innovation came in 1971, when he and his wife were making waffles for breakfast: It sparked an idea for a grooved pattern on the sole of trainers to help athletes grip running tracks. It spawned the “Nike Waffle Trainer,” patented in 1974 (at the expense of his wife Barbara’s waffle iron), Nike explains on its press site.

Nike Bill Bowerman NikeNike cofounder Bill Bowerman, inventing.

5. The Nike swoosh was designed by Portland State University student Carolyn Davidson, for just $35 (just over $200 in today’s currency). At a later stage she was given stock that is now worth more than $640,000.

nike swooshYouTube/FastCompany

6. The slogan “Just Do It” was inspired by serial killer Gary Gilmore, who said “let’s do it” just before he was executed by a firing squad in 1977. The revelation was made in a 2009 documentary about advertising called “Art & Copy.” 

Gary Gilmore mugshotWikipediaGary Gilmore mugshot.

7. The first “Just Do It” campaign launched in 1988. The ad featured Walt Stack, a then 80-year-old running icon, plodding across the Golden Gate Bridge.

8. Despite the fact that he hasn’t played basketball professionally since 2003, Michael Jordan still reportedly earns $60 million annually in royalties from Nike, according to Forbes. That makes him the athlete with — by far — the biggest Nike endorsement deal.

michael jordanAP ImagesMichael Jordan. 9. Romanian tennis professional Ilie Nastase, “the Bucharest Buffoon,” was the first athlete to sign an endorsement contract with Nike, in 1972. Nastase was a gifted tennis player but also became infamous for his erratic temperament and was lumped with several fines, suspensions, and disqualifications throughout his career.

ilie nastaseTony Duffy/Gareth Cattermole/Getty ImagesIlie Nastase, pictured here wearing rival Adidas.

10. Nike’s 1987 ad for the Air Max shoes was soundtracked by The Beatles’ “Revolution” — the first time a Beatles song had ever been used in a TV commercial, according to the Career in Sports book.

11. The world’s largest Nike store is not in its US homeland but on London’s Oxford Street. It cost £10.5 million to build the store, which spans three levels and roughly 42,000 feet. It was constructed around the theme of a town square.

Niketown LondonFlickrCC/James TempleNikeTown London’s “boot room.”

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