How do you Pronounce Nike?
& 10 questions about Nike...

How do you pronounce Nike?


This question sparks considerable debate between Nike owners; ‘Nike’ and ‘Nikey’ both have fervent supporters, but what is the correct pronunciation? We hate to break it to those of you that have confidently been calling the brand ‘Nike’, but in 2014 chairman Phillip Knight confirmed that the name actually stressed the ‘e’. Resultantly, the ‘Nikey’ supporters have it.


You contest this, given that the spelling would suggest otherwise. However, considering the name’s Ancient Greek roots, the sports brand does not sound as it seems. While the Classicists may understand it to sound like ‘nee-keh’, given how the English pronunciation of Ancient Greek evolved, today we would in fact say ‘nye-kee’.


Who created Nike?


While coaching the University of Oregon’s athletics team in the late 1950s, Bill Bowerman became increasingly frustrated by existing running shoes, finding their heavy leather and metal make-up disadvantageous. He raised his concerns with footwear manufacturers, but, after having multiple failed attempts, he approached a local cobbler and began designing and fashioning his own shoes.


Teaming up with Phil Knight, a runner on the team, Bowerman was able to test the shoes and adjust them as he saw fit. Soon this partnership between coach and athlete became official and the two men entered into a 50-50 business deal on 25th January 1964.

Vintage Nike - Bill Bowerman

Figure 1. Bill Bowerman working on his designs.

When was Nike founded?


It was in the late 1950’s that Bill Bowerman began to tinker with footwear, getting his first break in 1960 when Otis Davis won the Olympic 400-meter race in a pair of his shoes. Blue Ribbon Sports was established in 1964 and it became Nike Inc. in 1971.


Upon changing its name to the now celebrated title, the brand redesigned its image. Developing the early style of the swoosh logo, it renamed the Tiger Cortez as the Nike Cortez and launched its first campaign, featuring the strapline ‘There is no finish line’.


What was Nike’s original name?


Before Nike took its legendary name, it went by Blue Ribbon Sports. Under a dual ownership, the early formation of the company specialised in sports shoes, relying on Bowerman’s expertise and Knight’s business acumen. Securing a deal with the Japanese manufacturer, Onitsuka, the men began exporting the popular Tiger shoes and the company quickly took off.


As Bowerman’s designs continued to evolve, he adapted the Tiger TG-22 to create the renowned Tiger Cortez. However, the popularity of the new model caused a rift between Blue Ribbon and their partners in Japan (now known as Asics), leading to a split. Going it alone, Nike was born.


What does Nike mean?


Nike appropriately takes its name from the Greek winged goddess of victory. Upon rebranding, the company needed a new name. Nearly called ‘Dimension Six’, the leading sports brand could also have gone by ‘Peregrine’ or ‘Bengal’. As the story goes, Jeff Johnson, BRS’s first employee, was given a single night to come up with a name. It was at 7 a.m. that it hit him and three hours later he made a call to President Bob Woodell suggesting that they use the name ‘Nike’.

Daughter of Pallas and Styx, Nike was revered by the Ancient Greeks. Often depicted as a small sculpture, resting in the hand of Zeus or Athena, she was also depicted next to athletes or to commemorate victorious battles and competitions.

Vintage Nike Namesake

Figure 2. Nike’s namesake, the goddess of victory in the palm of Athena.


Where is Nike HQ?


The Nike World Headquarters is situated near Beaverton, Oregon, in the United States. With over 75 buildings, it spans across 286 acres, featuring the Jordan Building, the Tiger Woods Conference Center and the Mia Hamm Building, home to the Nike Sport Research Lab.


However, despite having multiple sports centres with state-of-the-art equipment, museums and delis, Nike HQ is not open to the public. We would be first in line if it was.


Who owns Nike?


Phil Knight once famously said, ‘If coach [Bowerman] isn’t happy, Nike isn’t happy.’ Reducing his role in the late 1970s, Bowerman passed his stake to other employees, but he remains a legendary figure in Nike’s history.


Today, Knight and his family own a controlling stake in the business. Together with his son Travis and the holding companies and trusts they control, Knight owns more that 97% of outstanding class A shares which gives him effective control of the company and its operations, despite being a publicly traded business.


Where is Nike made (now vs old)?


Founded at the University of Oregon, it is unsurprising that Nike (or then BRS) first operated in Eugene, Oregon. Supporting Onitsuka as a U.S. distributor they later expanded into the East Coast of America in Wellesley, Massachusetts.


As it stands today, Nike’s published Manufacturing Map lists 486 factories in 39 countries/regions, having a particularly large presence in Asia, in countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and China. Following the child labour and sweatshops scandal, Nike now adheres to strict transparency guidelines with regards to its supply chain.


How do you get sponsored by Nike?


Following its hit partnership with Michael Jordan, resulting in the iconic Air Jordan series, Nike has received a reputation for its ground-breaking sponsorship deals. Further sponsoring the likes of LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mo Farah, the sports giant spent $9 billion on sponsorships and endorsements in 2016 alone.


However, they don’t support anyone. You have to be on top of your game to fall under the Nike radar, but it’s not impossible and young professionals must reach for the stars.


What does ‘Nike SB’ stand for?


Officially, ‘Nike SB’ stands for Nike Skateboarding. In the 1980s, when the sport was still fairly new, skateboarders used basketball shoes to support them when skating. Nike saw a gap in the market and in 1996 it made its first attempt to break into the subculture’s sporting fashion, although its models never really took off.


With the turn of the century, Nike made their second and third attempts and eventually launched the Nike SB. There remains some confusion as to whether the ‘SB’ stands for skateboarding or was rather a tribute to Sandy Bodecker, a Nike shoe tester that pushed the Nike SB to be what it is today. While sources would suggest that it really does refer to skating, the initials seem an awfully poignant tribute to the influential man that passed away in 2018.

Vintage Nike SB

Figure 3. Nike SB advert.



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