Thursday, April 9, 2009

Phil Knight

As a child of the 1980’s, I grew knowing just one thing about fashion. The shoes had to be Nike. Phil Knight is one of the co-founders of Nike and under his leadership (and with an assist from several great advertising campaigns starring Michael Jordan), Nike became the undisputed leader in athletic shoes throughout the 1980’s. Today, Nike’s empire has expanded greatly, covering all types of sports apparel and even branching into sports equipment – like golf balls. Even before Tiger Woods’ dramatic chip-in at the Masters in 2005 – when his golf ball hung dramatically on the lip of the cup, prominently displaying the Nike logo to the world’s largest golf audience – the Nike logo was one of the most widely recognized and powerful corporate logos.

Through the use of skillful marketing campaigns, Knight led Nike from its founding in the late 1960’s, through its huge successes in the 1980’s before retiring in as CEO in 2004. Along the way he built a company that is now a major presence in the sports apparel market worldwide and boasts a market capitalization of over $24 billion. Knight was certainly not the first to use athletes in marketing campaigns, but his decision to center his marketing around Michael Jordan in the late 1980’s was nothing short of genius as Jordan quickly became the most famous basketball player ever. Air Jordan’s remain an iconic name in athletic shoes, and have spawned dozens of copycat efforts attempting to tie a big name athlete to a shoe. As Jordan began to fade from the spotlight in the mid 1990’s, Knight found his next superstar in Tiger Woods, committing to a 5 year, $40 million dollar contract before Woods had even swing his first professional swing of the golf club.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the rest of the advertising world has been flattering Knight and Nike for the past two decades, as more and more advertising campaigns aggressively compete for the next superstar from the world of sports. Knight stuck gold twice and build a sporting goods empire in the process.

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