As World War II drew to an end there was a man in Oregon named Phil Knight who was on the famous University of Oregon Track Team under coach Bill Bowerman alongside running sensation Steve Prefontaine. At the time, the sneaker was only for sporting events and the shoes were crude at best. Bill Bowerman would toil night and day to make custom shoes to help his runners perform at their best levesls.
As they started to form the Blue Ribbon Sports company to market custom shoes, Phil Knight would make friends with the enemy of World War II Japan. While others demonized Japan, Knight was a person of peace and reached out his hand of friendship with Japan while the country was at a low point.
The Nike Swoosh corporate trademark was created in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson while she was a graphic design student at Portland State University. It was here that she met Phil Knight, who was at the time teaching accounting classes at the university. Knight had overheard that Davidson was in search of extra funds in order for her to take oil painting classes, so he offered to pay Davidson to do some freelance work for his company, then named Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS). Knight offered to pay Davidson $2 per hour (about $14 per hour today) for the work that she completed. For seven years after its founding in 1964, BRS primarily imported Onitsuka Tiger brand running shoes from Japan. In 1971, Knight decided to launch his own brand of shoes, which would first appear as cleated shoes for football or soccer, and had a factory in Mexico ready to make the shoes. All Knight needed was a "stripe"—the industry term for a shoe logo—to go with his new brand, so he approached Davidson for design ideas. He had asked Davidson to make sure the stripe conveyed motion and did not look similar to the three stripes of Adidas. Over the ensuing weeks, she created at least a half-dozen marks and gathered them together to present to Knight, Bob Woodell and Jeff Johnson (two BRS executives) at the company's home office, at the time located in Tigard, Oregon. They ultimately selected the mark now known globally as the Swoosh. "I don't love it," Knight told her, "but I think it will grow on me". Once the choice was made, Davidson asked for more time in order to refine the work she had done on the Swoosh; however, Knight stated that the company had production deadlines to meet and needed the logo as soon as possible. For her services, the company paid her $35 ($206 in 2015 dollars), citing that she worked 17.5 hours on creating the Swoosh, although Davidson claims that she is certain she worked more hours on the design. In September 1983, Knight gave Davidson a golden Swoosh ring with an embedded diamond and 500 shares of Nike stock (which have since split into 32,000 shares) to express his gratitude. Davidson claims to this day that she is not a millionaire but lives comfortably.The Swoosh was officially patented on June 18, 1971 and in June 1972, at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, Nike's first official track shoe, the Nike Cortez, was released to the athletes sporting the fresh new Swoosh.
Nike has gone on to be perhaps the biggest icon and brand of modern marketing. Phil Knight said many years into the company, he had no idea how important marketing was to the success of the company.