Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight founded Nike Inc. as Blue Ribbon Sports in 1962. The partners began their relationship at the University of Oregon where Bowerman was Knight’s track and field coach. While attending Stanford University, Knight wrote a paper about breaking the German dominance of the U.S. athletic shoe industry with low-priced Japanese shoes. In an attempt to realize his theory, Knight visited Japan and engineered an agreement with the Onitsuka Tiger Company, a manufacturer of quality athletic shoes, to be their sole distributor in the United States.
In 1962, Knight received the first shipment of 200 pairs of Tiger shoes to his parent’s garage in Oregon. The shoes were bought by Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS), the name of the partnership between Knight and Bowerman that they formed with only $1,000 in capital. Knight peddled Tiger’s shoes at local track meets grossing $8,000 of sales in their first year. Knight and Bowerman both had full time jobs, so in 1965, Jeff Johnson was brought in as the 1st full time employee for BRS. Jeff Johnson quickly became a valuable asset. Jeff started all of BRS’s print advertising and even started designing some shoes. In 1971, BRS, with creditor support, started manufacturing their own line of shoes. Later that year, the first BRS shoe was introduced. It was the first shoe that bore the Nike brand name, referring to the Greek Goddess of Victory, and the Swoosh trademark. A student designed the Swoosh trademark for a paltry fee of $35. The Swoosh was meant to symbolize a wing of the Greek Goddess. One particular design of had many people talking. This particular design featured a waffle nub design the Bowerman took from his wife’s waffle iron. The shoe’s where making an impression on people and BRS just needed someone famous to promote the shoes. His name was Steve Prefontaine.
Steve Prefontaine was...