Bill Bowerman was the co-founder of Nike, helping to launch a revolution in sport shoes as The New York Times obituary remembers.
Nike is one of the biggest names in the world of sportswear. As well as providing sportswear for professional athletes, it has become integral to those legions of Americans who fell in love with jogging, running and gyms. And Nike, like other sportswear giants, succeeded in becoming more than just a sports shoe; it became a fashion must-have.
Bill Bowerman and Nike
Bowerman died aged 88 in December 1999. He is credited with being integral in building the Nike brand into the global marketing powerhouse it is today. Before co-founding Nike, Bowerman was a well-known track coach at Oregon University. Before Nike, headed by Bowerman and his co-founder Phil Knight, the design of trainers was pretty stagnant. Nike introduced innovation in materials, design, performance and image. Knight also had his roots in running – he was a former runner who Bowerman had coached. The pair were eager to develop running shoes that offered better traction and that were lighter to wear. When America clocked onto the jogging boom in the 1970s, the pair were in the right place at the right time, and the Nike brand exploded. The multi-billion dollar sportswear empire under Bowerman and Knight became a globally recognised brand, its swoosh logo is perhaps one of the best known in marketing history.
Nike – Running with the Times
The fact that the founders of Nike were in fact a coach and a runner says a lot for the brand. It's firmly rooted in athletics and has used sporting heroes and mega-stars like Michael Jordan to front advertising campaigns. It's this sporty image that makes Nike so successful, successfully combining performance with fashion. Bowerman coached 19 Olympians in his career, and built a formidable reputation as a track coach. Bowerman went into business with Knight in 1964 putting in $500 towards a company they called Blue Ribbon Sports. Bowerman and Knight went on to launch Nike in the early 70s after a dispute with the Blue Ribbon manufacturer – they then designed their own shoes, and adopted 'Nike' (for the Greek goddess of victory). The success of Nike some say is down to the boom in jogging – and Bowerman can take credit for that too – his book 'Jogging' released in 1967 is widely acknowledged as inspiring the trend for running in America.
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