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. Former University of Oregon track coach and co-founder of Nike Bill Bowerman once said: "If you have a body, you are an athlete!" (NikeBiz) This way of thinking is how Nike conducts every aspect of their business, and also, this is the most basic idea of Nike to become a multinational corporation as every person is a potential athlete or "consumer". This is a common term when used in the realm of athletics but when Bill Bowerman said this it was in direct reference to the shoe industry. From their marketing strategies to their selling philosophies, Nike has developed one of the most recognizable and demanded name and logo among all the international corporations.
There are several important factors that help to distinguish Nike from its competition in the athletic footwear and apparel industries. None are more important than Nike's emphasis on technological innovations in both product design and manufacturing. Nike has maintained its lead in this critical field, through a commitment to innovation and constant research in conjunction with some of the world's greatest athletes. The process of innovation begins with the type of people Nike employs. Nike's designers have a solid background in engineering which gives them and advantage over other designers who may emphasize style over functional performance. The designers are driven to be the best in the business. This devotion allows them the freedom to explore radical design that other athletic apparel companies like Reebok, Fila or Adidas seem to overlook in favor of fashionable trendy products. A good example of this is the case of the original Air insole design. In 1977 Frank Rudy, a NASA engineer had an idea to use air in athletic shoes to reduce the impact. Nike was the only company that saw the wisdom of Rudy's design idea, and brought the concept to the market. The idea was revolutionary in the athletic footwear marketplace and Nike reaped the reward of its forward thinking. The technology itself sophisticated, consisting of little bags filled with pressurized gases that responded to the movements of the athlete's feet. When the athlete moved the air bags responded to the movement, cushioning the athlete and absorbing a great deal of the shock that had previously been transmitted through the wearer's leg. The net results were that athletes could train longer in more comfort, and reduce injury at the same time. In 1994, Nike introduced a new version of its air insole to the market. The multi-chamber, multi-volume air-sole unit improved on the original air insole in a big way. Nike again beat the competition to the punch by introducing technological improvements that were designed with the athlete in mind. The design for this new shoe involved a system of pressurized airbags that responded independently to the movement of the athlete. Wherever the foot took the hardest blow, the units were inflated to a low volume and wherever more stability was needed, the air bags were inflated to higher volumes. The result of this innovation was that the shoe was able to be customized to a certain extent to the individual needs of the athlete. This is another example of where Nike has taken its strength in engineering and applied it to the design of a completely new product. The strength of this practice lies in Nike's ability to tailor the products it offers to the performance needs of its customer base....
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