Swoosh: The unauthorized story of Nike….

swoosh.jpg I bet that almost all readers of this blog have heard of Nike. I also bet that a large majority of our readers have not heard of Blue Ribbon Sports shoe company. The book “Swoosh: The unauthorized story of Nike and the men who played there” is an incredible story of how Phil Knight founded a small shoe company by the name of Blue Ribbon Sports and transformed it into Nike, one of the largest corporations in the world in a few decades. The book is written by J. B. Strasser (wife of Nike’s first advertising manager) with Laurie Becklund (a professional writer) describes the experience of Knight and six men who made Nike the most successful sports apparel company. The book, of course, also discusses Nike’s competition with Adidas and later Reebok, relationship with Japanese subcontractors, and with the large group of athletes and sportspersons who endorsed Nike over the years. 

 This is an interesting, but long, book to read for students of entrepreneurship, business strategy, and marketing. Strasser is not an outsider collecting information about Nike from secondary sources, but is an insider who has access to insiders in Nike and information which most others are unlikely to have. As the name of the book suggests, it is an “unauthorized story”, meaning that Phil Knight and others at the helm of Nike did not support this book. It is not difficult to see why when you read the book. Enjoy a long read!   



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54 responses to “Swoosh: The unauthorized story of Nike….

  1. Katie Agew

    I have just started the book, but already I like it a lot. I think that it can be inspiring to look at Phil Knights story. Phil was not a stand out student or even an extremely out going guy, he was just ordinary. Most people said he was shy and absent minded. When you think of the founder of Nike you would not think of them being shy or absentminded. You would think out going and driven. This story goes to show that anyone can do great things in life, it is all about timing. I am really excited to read more about Phil’s story.

  2. Adam Claus

    I am not too far into the book but I am really interested in what is going on so far. As mentioned before Knight is described as an ordinary guy. He had a keen sense for numbers and that made him stand out more than anything. Nike is going through some tough times and has earned the image of a party scene around the office. The book starts with a more somber scene in which the founding group meets to discuss their recent dip and what they are going to do come out of it.

  3. Jed

    I thought it was really interesting reading the first couple chapters of “Swoosh” and the way the author described Phil “Buck” Knight. The description of him being “elusive, the white mole, and a non-memorable person” doesn’t fit societies stereotypical view of a Fortune 500 Chief Executive Officer. Despite his shortcomings in CEO characteristics, Phil Knight comes across as a “silent assassin.” I wouldn’t describe it as an “underdog” story, but rather as unexpected success story. I agree with the forewarning that the reading is a little boring at times, but a majority of the reading is enjoyable or helps to underline the main concept. Reading the book and doing the simulation makes me want to start my own athletic footwear company, but I should probably graduate first.

  4. Ben Bazis

    So far, I have found the book quite interesting. I didnt even know who started Nike to begin with so to learn of Phil Knight and his demeanor was intrigueing. As mentioned before, one doesnt normally think that a CEO of a global company would be described as an ordinary person. I thought it was very inspiring to hear that about Knight. I am intereted and am looking forward to reading more.

  5. Sarah Eltiste

    Even thought I ordered my book two days after the first class meeting, I just received it in the mail today. I had a chance to read a few pages this evening, and will continue reading more after I post this blog. So far my opinion of the book is interesting, and easy to read. I judge the books I read on the “readability factor” – how easy to understand it is and how much time it takes to decipher main points. Thus far, the “readability factor” on this book is above average. I will make sure I include more in depth analysis of my reading after I get through a little more of it…I am anxious to read about Nike and Phil Knight, and the details of how the product/company all came about. Since I am such a sports fanatic, I foresee myself enjoying the book.

  6. Sarah Eltiste

    I have gotten much reading done on Swoosh, and I feel that Phil Knight demonstrates his business knowledge in a strong and powerful way. He definitely proves that it’s who you know that will help you in life. All of his business partners seem to be friends or people he dealt with briefly throughout his college years. Since he was trying to start up a sport’s shoe business, he contacts coaches and athletes, who he know will be asset to his business and selling his shoes. He doesn’t give up when faced with business hardships. When the bank says they do not want his business any longer, he contacts a friend that is very knowledgable in the financial world, and who has numerous contacts with other financial institutions. So far, Phil has proven that the people you know and bring into your business will be the biggest assets of any business.

  7. Corey Bronson

    The book im reading for my Corp. & Business Strategy is Swoosh. This book talks about the corporation Nike shoe maker. It touches on a couple key points regarding the begining of nike. It goes in detail about how Nike had some early competition with Reebok and how each one of these shoe makers tried to grab a target market within this industry by differentiating themselves from one another. Reebok got an early jump on the womens shoes while nike focused on the runners/joggers market. Nike is trying to find its identity early in its life.

  8. Katie Agnew

    I just keep being amazed by this book. I think it is funny the way things worked out for Phil Knight. It is really all about who you know and luck. It is crazy to think that Nike was started in his parents basement. I really like how Phil wants to compete, he wants to be the best. He states that he wants to bet out Adidas and he will not stop till he reaches his goal. I like that he knew what he wanted and would not let any one stop him from getting there.

  9. Ben Bazis

    I thought it was interesting how Phil Knight entered in to his relationship with Onitsuka. He made up a company name and just set up a meeting and went for it. Also, the way he has dealt with the problems that have come his way have been fun to read about. I also thought that the problems he was having with delivery and quality were rather interesting and quite relevant to our class. I also didnt know that addidas and puma were owned by competeing brothers.

  10. Jed

    With the termination of the Tiger shoe contract, Blue Ribbon Sports was faced with a major decision. Either pursue legal actions to try to regain sole distributorship of Tiger shoes or start their own shoe company and compete against the shoe company they helped to build up. Blue Ribbon Sports chose the latter and began Nike (Thank goodness they didn’t choose Dimension 6). The loss of sole distributorship was a major morale blow to Nike, but they showed great resiliency in pursuing their goal. Nike set out in “disruptive innovation.” Nike created a business model that brought to the market a much more affordable product that met customer demands. I really enjoy reading the description of the employees, their backgrounds, and their style. Thus far, James Moodhe, the credit manager is the most interesting employee of Nike. He didn’t care if your mother died, if you were late on your payments, he was after you. Nike took advantage of “The Poodles’” (Adidas) over confidence. Adidas never bothered to check the rear-view mirror and Nike took advantage of that. In relation to the simulation, the lead team cannot coast into the winners circle. Your shoe company always has to stay ahead AND aware of the competition.

  11. Adam Claus

    I really like this book so far. I think it is really interesting to see how the company is developing and branching away from its intended strategy into its emergent strategy. I think that Phil Knight would be an incredibly difficult person to work for, he really comes off as a short and cold person. I found it kind of funny when the sales team came to a track event to sell shoes after simply giving them away for so long. The girls thought that they were just giving them away instead of selling them and before long their inventory was gone with nothing to show for it! There are some really interesting personalities evolving in this company, it seems like a real hodge-podge of characters that somehow make it work. I am looking forward to finishing this book.

  12. Corey Bronson

    I really enjory reading this book. There are quite a few characters that work within Nike. Phil Knight is very business orientated and is focused on surpassing the other shoe makers within his industry. Nike has given me some strartergies to implement within the class simulation.

  13. Sarah Eltiste

    Nike believed their most important mission was to unify Nike & beat Adidas in one big market. They knew the market was not different, yet their strategies & company mission made them different. They believed there was a heartbeat market, a place where all of the success would happen for their company. And they thought that if they got it right in the heartbeat of the market, they would get it right every place. They made running their image. They knew the only chance to win in the athletic shoe competition was to be themselves – be unique. This is such a powerful thought for any company. It takes a lot of brains behind a good mission statement & strategy. So far in the book, it seems the individuals at Nike seem to have the brains behind a successful business. There are so many different types of business-minded individuals that they accentuate each others strengths & weaknesses, creating a formula for success. The image, mission, strategy, uniqueness, etc. tie into our similation well. It instills the subtle advice to myself that I can communicate to my team that we need to be unique when running our shoe company. A good strategy is one that takes time, and that can have it’s ups and downs.

  14. Katie Agnew

    I have really enjoyed reading this book. I like to learn about a company that has been popular since I was little. I think it is interesting to see how much a company can change by going public. I think when Nike was a private company they were closer. That is what happens when a company going public, they can make more money but they will lose the personal touch. I find it sad the way that Knight treated his employees, they were disposable to him.

  15. Ben Bazis

    I have found this book continually interesting. When Nike went public the company seemed to change quite much. It seemed like they began to lose control and communication became harder and less useful. It was also interesting to see that Athletics West? was beginning to become in own entity in a way. It seemed for a bit, that nike lost control of the operations there and purpose. Seeing them focus on more global endeavors was educational as well.

  16. Sarah Eltiste

    I have to agree w/ Ben on Nike losing control as soon as they went public. The whole business changed as well as the focus and commitment of the top executives (Strasser, Knight, Woodell, etc). It seemed like they changed the strategy of the company as well. They began to focus on net profits and forgot to achieve the high quality and customer loyalty they wanted at the start of Nike’s success. Their main focus was on how many athletes they could pay to wear their shoes to make more money. Little did they know, the money they were spending for them to wear the shoes exceeded their forecasted costs. They began to see their first losses, and most of the execs. had no idea so much money was being spent on this. Knight seemed to became a different person than what he was when the company started. And that seemed to rub off on the others and the success of the company. I am at the part in the book where Micheal Jordan starts to play a role, so I am anxious to see how this changes the path the company is taking.

  17. Jed

    Resiliency. Nike shows great resiliency through all the struggles and mistakes it makes along the way, from the loss of Pre to the “disruptive influences” of top management moving the company in a different direction. I agree with Sarah and Ben, when they talk about it being a little disheartening to see Nike go away from their soul foundation. In the beginning I would describe them as a rag-tag bunch of men, who loved sports, who were creating a culture that could surpass Adidas because of will, desire, effort, and all the characteristics that make a good “athlete” and now the company has turned into a business, characterized by CEO’s, suits, bottom lines, and numbers. More people are added to the company, more ideas, more opinions, and the people who have had a stake in the company for so long, feel they should have more of a say then what Phil Knight is giving them. Because I’m doing a research paper on sports psychology and sports competition it ties directly into “Swoosh.” A story I came across in doing my research was Michael Jordan’s rookie year he wore the new “Air Jordan.” The NBA fined him because the shoes did not abide by the rules set for by the league stating shoes had to conform to the Bulls jersey. The fine $5000 per game. Nike paid every penny of each fine because it was the greatest promotion tool. It would have cost millions to produce an ad campaign that would have created the same buzz as Michael Jordan continuing to wear banned Nike shoes. Nike struck gold with MJ. They had no idea the impact he would have on sports and sports merchandise. I also read that MJ did not want to sign with Nike, he wanted to sign with Adidas or Converse, but Converse already had the top players and Adidas never made MJ an offer. Big mistake!

  18. Jed

    There are so many funny stories in the book. The Dragon Lady, the first Nike apparel launch. “Knight would make a good Japanese guy.” I think the culture of Nike extended from the people who ran it, but as the people changed, so did the company. The stories and friendships are great. I laugh often while reading the book.

  19. Scott Stronck

    I agree with the above comment about Nike. They were very resilient throughout many of their hardships they encountered. The book demonstrates how Nike was able to find the answers including the big marketing promotion with the use of celebrities that they have used. This has proven to be one of their most successful methods especially with the use of Michael Jordan. The company has definintely found a link between these superstars and athletes that seems to be working and has worked for many years.

  20. Adam Claus

    I think that it would be a very tough task to work for Knight. It seems like everything anyone ever does is never good enough for him and when he does pay someone a compliment it is left-handed. I found the story behind Air to be an amusing one. The fact that the workers were working in separate spaces and couldnt see the whole production is kind of funny when you think that they are making shoes! I was unaware that the shoes were flops at first but I guess they got the technology right now as they seem to be more popular now than ever before. I like this book so far and I think it will be interesting to see how the rest plays out.

  21. Sarah Eltiste

    I have completed the book and feel that the ending was surprising. The executives that built Nike, other than Knight, have contributed so many years to making what Nike was/is. What was surprising about the ending was, none of the individuals were there. Strusser, Knight’s righthand man was the departure I was most shocked by. It seemed like at the end, Knight completely disregarded his employees. There was no value or appreciation for what they have done. Their sacrifices they made for the company (failed marriages, constant traveling, investments made for the company, time) were completely disregarded. I am a strong believer that a CEO needs to take care of his/her employees and retain the belief and truth that the company would be nothing without the hardwork, dedication and integrity of its employees. Knight is a perfect example of going against this belief, and reaping the rewards that so many OTHER brilliant individuals created.

  22. Katie Agnew

    I am finish reading the Swoosh book; I found it very interesting the whole way through. I really liked to see the stages of a company that was started from scratch. I really like the way that Nike was able to change their strategy along the way. They really pushed the industry and the way they endorsed people. I think that the best thing that they did was to add Jordan and Bo. They really helped to take the company to a whole new level. I am really happen I decided to read this book. It was very educational and interesting.

  23. Corey Bronson

    I am close to completing the book. Knight is very business orientated and is a hard person to please, but that goes to show that success comes at a cost. I find it hard to swallow that many of the employees took problems from work home and let it interfere with their families. People need to revaluate what they consider to be imporant in their life because when it all comes down to needing a helping hand that job wont be there but family will. Even though Knight appears to be rigid and disregard his employees is one way to view the situation, but I see him as an ambitious person who has goals and will pursue those goals at any cost regardless of how other prioritize their lives.

  24. Ben Bazis

    I found Swoosh very interesting the whole way through. The end was rather sad in a way though. All of the people that helped build the company from nothing and stood by Phil Knight through all of the hard times, were either forced out or quit. The way that some of the employees were let go was very surprising. The Company was changing, but it seemed like Mr. Knight used everyone and then when their usefulness was up, he dumped them. Was the way he did this ethical? Overall, the book was great and I enjoyed reading it.

  25. Jed

    The end of Swoosh was like a Cinderella team making it late into the NCAA tournament. As the company grew people started believing. Nike went from a small shoe company to the major force in the industry. It was challenged repeatedly, but the employees continued to believe in it…then, sadly, the dream was over. I can’t imagine any of the departed employees saying they wouldn’t do it again, but the way Phil Knight made people buy into to the belief in Nike, the way the employees embraced the company and everything it stood for, only to be sold out in the end, was a little disheartening.

  26. Adam Claus

    I really enjoyed the book. I think that the Nike story is a great one to tell. It is hard to believe that the multi-national company doing billions of dollars in business started out as a term paper for a class. I hope I find that same fortune. Phil Knight would not be a fun guy to work with, I do wonder how much of the writer’s opinion of Phil Knight is biased against him though. I can’t really think of any moments when she really portrayed him in a positive light. I think that the way all the guys who started the company fell off towards the end is a little sad, but money and going public certainly changes people. I wish the book would have been a little more focused on the company and not the people but I guess the title does say “the men who played there”.

  27. Scott Stronck

    After further reading into the book, I have found it to be a decent read. It is so interesting/fascinating to see how the company kept afloat during some of its troubled years. They didn’t have any cash flow and were basically bankrupt but kept telling the shoe manufacturers that the company was doing well. Knight even borrowed money in exchange for a future distribution of the company’s stock. All of these transactions could have very easily blown up and led to the demise of Nike. The interesting part is how they were able to pull it off and lead the company into a worldwide market leader.

  28. William Haller

    Swoosh chronicles Phil Knight(and friends) and Blue Ribbon as it evolved into the modern day Nike most people are familiar with today. It is interesting to think of the company starting with just an MBA athlete wanting to design something useful for fellow athletes. Phil often times utilized people in his existing network with various expertises to accomplish whatever innovation, marketing, financing was needed at the time. This made me feel like more MBAs are capable of producing substantial results just by relying on our own skills sets when supplemented by other people we know who happen to have specialties.

    I can mention numerous examples of Nike (Blue Ribbon) having strategic decisions and inflection points throughout what I’ve encountered so far. One example includes Nike trying to appeal to coaches of college level teams to get “kids” used to wearing Nike shoes and performing, while other competitors (Adidas, Reebok, Pro-Ked) were focusing on just the pro-athletes. This is certainly an attempt at strategic differentiation in the company’s marketing. Another example includes Nike peanut vendor just trying to get some cleats on the Dodgers feet for some publicity. Additionally, Knight and company had to lobby with a senator to promote their goals and were able to enlist his support to bolster the company’s abilities (business and the political environment). Finally, the dealings with the Rubber Manufacturers demonstrates buyer/supplier dynamics of the five forces playing out in an actual company’s history.

    I definitely see the value of reading Swoosh in terms of getting us to identify real life strategy, how a company may differentiate its strategy from competitors, and that there is not always a clear cut direction to take (but there is always a way to make it through). My one complaint at this point is that the authors focus on character description (probably to keep it interesting, real and personable). For my purposes, I’m trying to follow general strategic principles and it is not necessary and is increasing the length of an already substantially long book. Oh well…

  29. Jennifer Gilligan

    The book “Swoosh” starts out by introducing us to the founder of Nike Phil Knight. The book talks about how while studying at Stanford University Knight was considered an ordinary person. Knight first came up with the idea for Nike while writing a college paper. At the time no one was particularly impressed with him idea. The story moves on to talk about how track coach Bowerman becomes a partner with Knight for Blue Ribbon Sports. The two start to distribute shoes in Western United States. They come into some trouble when they have to fight another U.S. distributor for the sole right to sell Tiger shoes. The partners hire two more salesmen Geoff Hollister and Jeff Johnson as well as open two headquarters one in Massachusetts and one in California.

  30. Rory Quiller

    Nike was started by a former Oregon Track and Field runner, Phil Knight. He ran for the famous coach Bill Bowerman. He took as simple idea, saw a need by the market, and filled the void. His idea was to undercut the more expensive brand, Adidas, with a cheap alternative found in Japan, Tiger. He became a distributer initially, but later due to his partnership with his coach and Bowerman’s idea to create a lighter urethane sole for track shoes he could carve his own niche in the market. The waffle shoes revolutionized the industry, just as any break through that follows invention.
    Phil Knight was in an MBA program, and wrote a paper for an assignment that ended up making him one of the ten wealthiest people in America. This is similar to our situation in this MBA program because we are viewed as students, and our ideas are seen as sophomoric, yet they could very well revolutionize the business world as was the case with Nike.

  31. Sonal Sawant

    The book `Swoosh’ so far a very engrossing read (tiger years / 1964 -1971) has a rich history. It is very interesting to learn about how the brand Tiger was first introduced in US and the men who worked behind the scene. Philip Hampson Knight (Buck) comes across as a person with conviction and vision who set his path far early when he presented a paper about small business at Stanford and was determined to be the best track and field distributor. Setting a vision for himself and love for sports he followed his heart and formed the Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS) to distribute Tiger shoes from Onitsuka Co Ltd. Slowly he went about building his team who were either close to him or were just cut for this job, `spots lovers’ as the rest.

    First to join was Bill Bowerman his former coach, followed by Jeffery Owen Johnson his pal who loved running became the first full time commissioned sales man for BRS. Another enthusiast’s sports person was Bob Woodell who was set at Eugene to sell Tiger and Del Hayes who helped Knight in crises when he managed to forecast and package BRS as a growth oriented company for the bankers.

    The launch of Tiger in US and building it into a sustainable brand was truly a journey for the BRS team. Knight was smart enough to build in enough pressure for Bill Farrell the distributor in NY to finally get him away and be the sole distributor. His teammate Johnson proposed ideas which turned out fruitful for the brand Tiger. The idea of promoting the brand Tiger on athletes t-shirts followed by opening a retail outlet for customer to buy shoes was a good promotional start. And later the introduction of nylon in shoes with exclusive BRS rights added to the profound impact on Tiger sales. Knight sensed a fear and reacted soon enough when Kitami approached for a 51% take over deal of BRS. This was the turning point when Knight thought of creating his own brand.

    One critical comment that I would like to make is, that though a commendable journey for Knight. Tiger itself as a brand was not a creation of Knight. It was an already existing brand in Japan and with Adidas as the benchmark Knight had to just modify enough to make the new brand into a better proposition. Frankly, I don’t see any deep rooted original ideas and innovation in creating the brand Tiger. In terms of originality I would rather give a few scores to Adidas in this case.


    I just got a book few weeks ago. I know it is the history of Nike. Since I used to worked at sports industry, I will pay more attention of this book. In this books, it mention about many players which are sponsored by Nike. Also, it did tell us every period of Nike changing. We can learn some meaningful story from here. Therefore, it should be worth to read about it.

  33. George DeVardo

    Phil Knight is a different type of businessman, which I find refreshing to find in the business world. Through his experiences in work and life in general, Knight has developed into a very different CEO, and created a company environment that no one had ever seen before. Although he is a bit of a perfectionist, the people who work under him, admire him and seem driven to not only please him but more importantly further the success of the company. His years as a competitive track runner for Oregon has made him a very competitive man and that has carried over into his
    professional position, and in an industry as competitive as sports apparel and equipment, you need that drive. Some might call his managing style oppressive or too stringent, but it takes an extreme and passionate vision to succeed.

  34. Ryan Banker

    Swoosh tells the story of the Nike corporation beginning with its founder Phil Knight. Phil was passionate about running and ran at the University of Oregon under coach Bill Bowerman. Once out of college he took a trip to Japan to experience a piece of the world. Once there, he came across a shoe manufacturer who produced shoes brand named Tiger. The shoes were similar in style to the industry leader Adidas. Phil believed he could sell the shoes to American university track teams and undermine Adidas’ dominant market position. Phil began selling the shoes in the Pacific Northwest and with the help of his old coach began making improvements to reduce the weight of the shoe. The beginning of the book shows how one of the most iconic businesses in the world was founded. Phil began with an idea and was able to create a revolution.

  35. Jeff Wolniewicz

    Swoosh has proven to be an easy and entertaining read so far. I especially enjoy reading the story of Nike because of my background as a Division 1 athlete who has used Nike products for years. I was surprised to read that Nike was not always Nike, beginning under the name of Blue Ribbon Sports. Phil “Buck” Knight was a bit different than I envisioned him. I assumed he would have been driven from a young age to create a company such as Nike, but that was just not the case. There was nothing spectacular about Knight and he just seemed to waltz through life moving from one fortunate situation to another. Bowerman was another interesting person to me. I was shocked to read the part that described him as urinating on his players in the shower. Perhaps because it is a different time, but a coach behaving in that fashion would not have a job better yet be considered a legend in today’s world.

    Taking a further look at Phil Knight, I have concluded that Knight might just be the luckiest company president ever. Knight was no innovator, no great salesman, and no great genius. He is a former athlete that just happened to start a shoe company at a time when emerging economies, like Japan, made production costs cheaper and allowed for lower prices. Knight didn’t come up with the designs for the shoes, Bowerman did that. Knight wasn’t out there selling the shoes, Jeff Johnson was key to expanding Blue Ribbon sales. Knight didn’t even come up with the Nike name, it was Johnson’s idea. Lastly, Knight was largely an absentee president. Knight responded slowly or not at all to the needs of his salesforce, he did not even respond to their letters quite frequently. Phil Knight was not a great businessman, he was simply in the right place at the right time.

  36. Niamh Delaney

    Swoosh is an interesting novel about the creation and rise of Nike. I am enjoying reading this novel because it is giving me an inside look at how a company that is now a household name got its start. I am fascinated by how the company went from Blue Ribbon Sports to Nike and how their Swoosh was created. I was amused that none of the executives really liked the name “Nike,” but were pressed to come up with a name so they just settled on it, and that they really were not crazy about the Swoosh either. Today Nike is so synonymous with the Swoosh that I could not imagine it any other way.

    While reading this novel, I really found myself rooting for Team Nike/ Blue Ribbon Sports. Whether it was hoping their athletes placed well in the Olympics, or hoping their bank would not call for a federal investigation of their books. The book is written in such a way, that you get to know each character or “player” of the story, and a reader can really feel as if they are invested in the company. The early days of Nike, are something that I can only describe as a “grass roots” effort and I cannot help but smile when the underdog comes out on top.

    Phil Knight for all of his quirks, is a determined businessman who will not give up on his dream. I have never even seen a picture of this man but from reading this book I feel a level of respect for him. Perhaps, my respect is derived from the admiration he commands from other people. Everyone that works for him is willing to sacrifice of their time and their personal finances to keep his company running. He never seems to ask his employees for these sacrifices but somehow motivates their intrinsic drive to succeed.

  37. Jennifer Gilligan

    By 1969 Blue Ribbon Sports was at sales of $400,000 and was doubling every year. To update all of their locations BRS now has two warehouses, one in Boston and another in Los Angeles. They also have retail stores in Portland, Los Angeles, Eugene, and Boston. They brought in a new employee, Bob Woodell, who was a senior at University of Oregon when he had a paralyzing accident. He became Knights right hand man and handles a lot of the business. Problems start to arise with Onitsuka, and Knight fears that Tiger Shoes may have other distributors in the States. After Onitsuka (Tiger Shoes) builds two new factories in Japan, Blue Ribbon Sports decides to partner with the company to lock in guaranteed future shoe delivery.

    In May of 1970 Blue Ribbon Sports offered shares of their stock to the public for the first time. At this time Blue Ribbon Sports also teamed up with Nissho Iwai to finance the company, in return they would pay them 2% of Tiger Shoes shipments. Just as Knight had feared Tiger Shoes was working with other distributors in the States. After learning of this Knight decides that he wants to start producing his own shoes to sell. After the BRS teams does some brainstorming for a new company name Johnson comes up with the name NIKE. On June 18th 1971 NIKE sells their first pair of shoes. The first couple of batches of shoes were not high quality. When the cold weather came around many of the shoes started to crack and rip. Because of this NIKE decides to have a well know company, Nippon Rubber, produce their shoes.

    In the past Blue Ribbon Sports, now known as NIKE, had focused on track shoes. They decided it was a good time to branch out and research new sports. NIKE chooses tennis as their new shoe adventure. Once this was determined Jeff Johnson set out to find an athletic endorser and found Ilie Nastase. Nike needed something to set them apart from their main competitor ADIDAS. NIKE was able to sell their shoes at two to three dollars less than ADIDAS’s average price. Also they had the loyalty of many teams because of their relationship with Coach Bowerman. After NIKE had been operating for awhile Onitsuka discovers that BRS has been producing their own line of shoes. Tiger threatens to sue under the terms that BRS broke their exclusive contract.

    Blue Ribbon Sports (now NIKE) has been in business for eight full years. Since Tiger and NIKE had a disagreement the two companies decided to no longer do business with each other. The only problem with this is that BRS had spent most of their career building up the Tiger Shoe brand name. Now they would be selling against them with the NIKE brand. Lucky for NIKE the US men track and field Olympic trials would be held in Eugene Oregon and was to be coached by Bowerman. While trials are going on Bowerman gets some of the runners to wear NIKE shoes. Also Bowerman invents the rubber sole with his wife’s waffle iron.

  38. Jennifer Gilligan

    By 1969 Blue Ribbon Sports was at sales of $400,000 and was doubling every year. To update all of their locations BRS now has two warehouses, one in Boston and another in Los Angeles. They also have retail stores in Portland, Los Angeles, Eugene, and Boston. They brought in a new employee, Bob Woodell, who was a senior at University of Oregon when he had a paralyzing accident. He became Knights right hand man and handles a lot of the business. Problems start to arise with Onitsuka, and Knight fears that Tiger Shoes may have other distributors in the States. After Onitsuka (Tiger Shoes) builds two new factories in Japan, Blue Ribbon Sports decides to partner with the company to lock in guaranteed future shoe delivery.

    In May of 1970 Blue Ribbon Sports offered shares of their stock to the public for the first time. At this time Blue Ribbon Sports also teamed up with Nissho Iwai to finance the company, in return they would pay them 2% of Tiger Shoes shipments. Just as Knight had feared Tiger Shoes was working with other distributors in the States. After learning of this Knight decides that he wants to start producing his own shoes to sell. After the BRS teams does some brainstorming for a new company name Johnson comes up with the name NIKE. On June 18th 1971 NIKE sells their first pair of shoes. The first couple of batches of shoes were not high quality. When the cold weather came around many of the shoes started to crack and rip. Because of this NIKE decides to have a well know company, Nippon Rubber, produce their shoes.

    In the past Blue Ribbon Sports, now known as NIKE, had focused on track shoes. They decided it was a good time to branch out and research new sports. NIKE chooses tennis as their new shoe adventure. Once this was determined Jeff Johnson set out to find an athletic endorser and found Ilie Nastase. Nike needed something to set them apart from their main competitor ADIDAS. NIKE was able to sell their shoes at two to three dollars less than ADIDAS’s average price. Also they had the loyalty of many teams because of their relationship with Coach Bowerman. After NIKE had been operating for awhile Onitsuka discovers that BRS has been producing their own line of shoes. Tiger threatens to sue under the terms that BRS broke their exclusive contract.

    Blue Ribbon Sports (now NIKE) has been in business for eight full years. Since Tiger and NIKE had a disagreement the two companies decided to no longer do business with each other. The only problem with this is that BRS had spent most of their career building up the Tiger Shoe brand name. Now they would be selling against them with the NIKE brand. Lucky for NIKE the US men track and field Olympic trials would be held in Eugene Oregon and was to be coached by Bowerman. While trials are going on Bowerman gets some of the runners to wear NIKE shoes. Also Bowerman invents the rubber sole with his wife’s waffle iron.

  39. Ryan Banker

    The central portion of Swoosh tells how Blue Ribbon Sports was able to develop into a major player in the footwear industry. The business was growing with very few full time employees and part time sales representatives. They were all incredibly passionate about their sales and the company. Bill Bowerman was able to further the influence and respect of the organization by continuing to build a track dynasty at the University of Oregon and become the “father of jogging”. Phil Knight developed into an intense leader and asserted this leadership over his employees and used his focused vision to drive the business forward. Phil had a knack of picking employees like Jack Johnson and Bob Woodell that were passionate about their jobs and fit well within the company. Because of the vision and talented employees the fledgling company was able to double their sales yearly. This rapid expansion in sales allowed BRS to open several new locations including east coast operations. Marketing was also something BRS used to expand their business. From printing tee shirts to giving shoes to top athletes all helped the company expand dramatically. As the book continues it will describe the transition from the tiny BRS company to the globally renowned Nike.

  40. Sonal Sawant

    I have had the chance to read the transition years (1972 – 1976) for Nike and I can say there have been many leaps taken in decision making during these years. This has helped NIKE to be a solid sustainable brand so far. Knight had one goal in mind and that is to overcome Adidas which he had set far early in his career.

    After their decision to move away from Onitsuka Co Ltd, they first went about creating a logo which became known as `Swoosh’. Knight envisaged a great opportunity in the tennis sector which was booming at that point in time and wanted Nippon Rubbers to manufacture them for Blue Ribbons. He was also quick at getting endorsements for the brand and priced Nike shoes a little less than Tiger and Adidas to get volumes. Knight went about expanding his team by adding Gil Holloway and Paul Gambs in their sales who helped BRS open many accounts. By end of 1972 BRS had a 60% rise in sales. Adding next was Job Strasser as in house lawyer who helped BRS pull out of the merger, this was one of the greatest success for BRS at that point in time as now they could sell Nike Cortez as their original true creation. All was going well when Nike faced delivery issues, with the support of Moodhe the company reverted back with a launch of `Futures’ programs with their top customers. Futures program was fruitful; it not only got them out of financial crises but helped boost the credibility among customers as well. BRS soon faced the biggest blow out when the Bank of California convicted them on an act of insolvency for writing check against insufficient funds. Bur soon enough they were rescued by Nissho who agreed to work on BRS and help release their collateral through bank.

    In year 1974 BRS touched a score of 8$ million in sales, debuted the Waffle trainers and concentrated on basketball shoes for their main sales revenue. They also introduced the Nike Pro Club an elite club for players and their families with facilities such as tennis, golf and horse ridding. There was also a final break of settlement between Kitani and Knight. Knight wanted an absolute control and he went about with a verbal contractual agreement with Athena Corp in Taiwan. He contracted Morton Advertising to promote Nike and hired Ron Nelson in charge of advertising, promotion and retail sales. When Knight realized that a shoe called Asahi was marketed in US by Nippon Rubber, this is when he went about with his deal with Sam Hwa Co Ltd in Taiwan who had volumes which BRS lacked but needed quality such as Nike. On the other hand he proposed Nippon rubber to market Nike in Japan for a certain percentage. Thus was Nike growing in volumes and size soon enough that now Nike was going to go from private to public company in 3 years.

    One critical comment that I would like to make that though Knight had a vision of getting Adidas out of market. The strategies that he went about executing were all based on trial and error. Afcourse they were moving into wining the game at last, but the learning was slow. Knight or his team never revisited the Adidas marketing strategies or its internal value chain process or anything of this sort. All Knight went about doing was making his team believe in his brand and developing a so called group of people not even a full fledged team. I wonder if he ever thought of building a corporate structure even a small scale would have probably helped. He went about employing people as when the need arrived and as the product grew, but if he had some sort of a team set first, maybe the task would have been faster and easier.

  41. William Haller

    After my reading to date, I see more of the relevance of strategic vision in Blue Ribbon’s plans. I would say the main objective and vision is to outdo Adidas, the well rooted German shoe company, no matter what. The interesting part is, as Blue Ribbon starts up its distribution of Japanese Tiger shoes, this is a seemingly hopeless goal with no clear direction to complete it. Nevertheless, BRS and Knight veraciously attempt to develop a game plan and insist on maintaining this long term goal, thick or thin. This concept is very similar to much of the information given in Chapter 2 of the text concerning crafting and executing strategy.

    To speak critically of the writing, I still feel the author uses too much detail when explaining general character. I understand Strasser is trying to craft a story and illuminate the characters involved, but strategy is the main concern, not side stories on German shoe makers.

    Another comment that needs to be made concerns Knight’s sense of ethics. At first I assumed he was probably a mild mannered, but ethical person. Now I see that he was most certainly willing to bend the truth, make promises with no basis, and do what was necessary to pursue his strategic mission of owning the track and field shoe business over Adidas. This very much reminded me of the portrayal of Bill Gates in Pirates of Silicon Valley. Ethics can take a back seat to success and profitability in the mind’s of these founders. That is one major turn off concerning Knight’s early years, despite his other characteristics that make him someone an MBA student can relate to.


    The simple version of the story is that a young Oregon design student named Caroline Davidson got $35 in 1971 to create a logo for then-professor (now Nike CEO) Phil Knight’s idea of importing and selling improved Japanese running shoes. Nike’s innovative product line, combined with aggressive marketing and brand positioning, eventually created an unbreakable mental link between the Swoosh image and the company’s name. As Nike put it, there was so much equity in the brand that they knew it wouldn’t hurt to drop the word Nike and go with the Swoosh alone. Nike went to the textless format for U.S. advertising in March 1996 and expanded it globally later that year. While the Nike name and symbol appear together in ads today, the textless campaign set a new standard. In the modern global market, the truly successful icon must be able to stand by itself, evoking all the manufactured associations that form a corporation’s public identity.

  43. Rory Quiller

    Knight has become an established distribution element for the Japanese running shoe alternative to Adidas, Tiger, yet has motivation to take on the responsibility of furthering his responsibilities by stating his own shoe line. There are some interesting aspects of the relationship between Tiger in Japan and their deceptive business practices with Knight that could be paralleled to some of the questionable ethical strategies taken by Knight later in the book as he forms his own company independent of Tiger. This leads to the eventual downfall of the relationship between Blue Ribbon and Tiger, and they will eventually become competitors in the athletic shoe industry. This is a good parallel to the idea of strategic alliances, mergers and acquisitions in our class discussion. The tie of the strategic alliance is soured by the business strategies of Tiger, in this case, and it ends up harming them because the fight they pick ends up being with the biggest shoe company the world will ever see. This demonstrates that an ally one day is an enemy the next. Finally when Nike does form and go public by selling their first pairs of shoes the issue of suppliers becomes more important, as Nike must now decide which segment to market. It seems as if the strategic management decision is to go for head to head competition with Adidas as seen in chapter seven of the text. We later see the keys to Nike’s success develop through marketing strategies and endorsements of athletes. The key here is that the market lends itself to endorsements very well because it is an athletic apparel company and having athletes in a variety of sports wear their shoes ends up being worth its weight in gold. This targeting of athletes, non-professional/recreational/joggers, by getting other athletes to wear his shoes works wonderfully. It is a good case study in the effectiveness of advertising to a niche market, and a good example of alternative marketing strategy. This alturnative seems to be a very well suited for Nike as it has had trouble with unappealing advertising.

  44. Jeff Wolniewicz

    Phil Knight’s amazing luck has continued in the second portion of Swoosh. I read through the transition years, which covered through 1976. In my previous blog posting I discussed how I felt that Knight really didn’t do much but rather was extremely lucky. After my most recent reading, I give slightly more credit to Knight but I still think he and Nike are a successful company due to luck and circumstances.

    First, Nike started at a time when running was booming in America. Nike was creating an innovative product geared toward athletes and demand was exploding at the same time. Nike had so much demand that they couldn’t even keep up with it and had capacity issues that made delivery difficult. I will give credit to the employees that came up with the Futures program that gave large retailers incentive to pre order. This was an absolutely great business decision that was a win-win for everyone involved. However, I still have my doubts that if Nike and BRS were being launched in a more competitive environment that they would survive.

    Second, they survived their split from Onitsuka with the help of a young ambitious lawyer and on a 50/50 decision from a judge. Onitsuka and BRS both had a basis for filing law suits and both had facts to support their arguments. The case came down to who could appear more trustworthy to the judge. BRS won on the trust issue. The judge decided in favor of BRS not on facts, but simply because he believed them more. This decision gave BRS rights to the Nike Cortez and cleared the path for them to grow and expand. Had they not won this decision, BRS and Nike would likely have died.

    Third, Phil Knight knows how to surround himself with great people and might be a prophet. Looking at the first statement above, Knight had a knack for finding people that were completely committed to BRS and Nike dream. They worked long hours, often poorly compensated, all because they believed in the dream and the company. Perhaps the reason Nike became a cutting edge brand is because Knight went outside the box when hiring. He didn’t take people from other shoe companies because he felt that they had failed and were out of date. Instead, he found young, bright, energetic people who were willing to give everything to the company. Second, Knight always seemed to make the right decision. He started putting together plans and renting factory space in Exeter for an American “secret factory” before the decision in the Onitsuka case had even been rendered. He simply had banked on winning. Knight is often described in the book as a guy that everything just seems to go right for, that everything works out. If only we were all so lucky.

    My respect for Phil Knight has grown as I have read farther but I am still amazed at BRS and how they managed to not only survive but become Nike and a powerhouse. They were somehow able to double their sales each year all while being audited by the Bank of Cal, having their assets frozen, kiting checks, and nearly being federally charged. At the center of it all was Phil Knight, a cliche personified. I’d rather be lucky than good. Or be both good and lucky. I haven’t decided which Knight is quite yet, but lucky is definitely part of it.

  45. George DeVardo

    Knight is a great CEO, from his quite and calm persona to his quirky sense of humor. He sets the tone for a laid back and fun work environment that produces employees like Woodell and Johnson, and at the same time keeps employees like Moodhe around even when they think the company is too unstable. The friendships and relationships between the employees create a sense of pride for their company and through all their actions it can be seen because they all act for the better interest of the firm because they believe in the company, even if it means they need to use some of their own money to keep things moving. There is so much faith among the Nike force that it should be seen as a huge reason for their success, along with intelligent business practices and aggressive negotiations used to protect the Nike from bigger players who would try to beat out the company.

  46. Ryan Banker

    The last portion of Swoosh shows the trials and triumphs Nike experienced. They faced new competition with the rise of Reebok. They were dethroned as number one in market shard America. There were troubles meeting the mass market with a product that was relevant. Internal strife and layoffs were also causing tension among workers and management. Managers were often at odds with each other and with Phil Knight. Knight did not implement a strong leadership approach which caused power struggles and unexpected firings. Through the hard times Nike was able to forge on. They introduced Nike Air cross training shoe. They also gained one of the most important endorsement deals in history with the signing of Michael Jordan. As time passed the people who were major influences on the beginning and shaping of the company began to leave. The company had changed from a loose, fun organization of close friends to a mega company. Nike went from humble beginnings to one of the most influential companies with brands that were recognizable worldwide.

  47. Ryan Banker

    The author tells of many troubles experienced at Nike. He shares perspectives on how some of the management team felt with the exception of Phil Knight. It would have been helpful to see why the head of Nike behaved the way he did. It was often unclear why Knight was so distant from the company he loved and why he made some of the choices that shaped the company.

  48. Sonal Sawant

    Private years of Nike, were full of new ideas and concepts which they tried for first time. The company went through re-structuring process with Strasser becoming the Marketing Director and Rich Werschkul the Corporate Counsel. There was major emphasis on signing college coaches and to get the top team in Nike in basketball. Bill Frishette helped pushed Nike basketball cleats, Cortezes was featured in Charlie’s Angels and with the emphasis of extensive promotions Nike witnessed immediate sales growth. Nike entered the super bowl which proved successful and they introduced the air show in Honolulu Marathon in December. There were attempts to introduce first Nike apparel which was a failure. In 1980 Nike reached a pinnacle of being the number one athletic shoe company in America touching a score of 270$ million in 1980. Knight thought it made financial sense to go public with the Nike sale date being Dec 2nd 1980

    Knight planned to expand Nike’s success in Europe by appointing Strasser and also move into apparel which would be handled by Woodell. Nike was unknown in Europe, but they managed to secure its own trademark in France, Foster Britain’s premium distant runner became the sole manager of Nike UK and McEnroe was introduced in an adv. Thus Nike was slowly becoming known in UK as a shoe of champion, but it was still an independent distributor. Soon enough for the first time Nike quarter was effectively flat in Nov 1982 as compared to previous year, problems soon creeped in, Reebok was growing as a competitive threat, over 20 million pairs of Nike shoes were in inventory and Strasser called for layoffs. In Feb 1984 Nike made more cut backs laying off a total of 297 workers, it was further taking a beating in press as the stock dropped off 9 ¾. They realized that Michael Jordan was the only athlete who could carry off Nike to a new level, Jordans contract was soon negotiated to a higher level. But the future still didn’t look good, Nike made more cutbacks. Though Nike had a 28% market share in 1985 it was fast declining, it tried to figure out to make see through products, the idea was Air Nike. Now with just a handful of people as many moved out or were terminated and with Nike basketball being the only successful zone, Sept 1987 Nike still reported to have the best quarterly performance in the company’s history. Sporting News ranked Phil Knight as the number one and the most powerful person in the world

    One critical comment is that though the author tries to give us an overview of the transition and issues in Nike for their private and public years. There is more emphasis on Knight and his relationship with his co-workers, his time and again re- structuring process, layoffs and other major runaways. And at last you see Nike growths, so really one wonders if The Men Who Played There deserved the treatment or was layoff or in many instant quitting the show a good turnaround. I don’t get a clear sense of what the author wants to portray as for me it just leaves a bitter taste towards Knight for his sheer temperament.

  49. Rory Quiller

    To this point, Nike has gone to China to produce its goods. This was one of the first companies in the states to utilize this resource. We can easily draw the parallel to globalization that we discussed in class, and the issues that come along with opening a nation to the world market and the advantages that this led to for other companies. Nike has gone public, becoming a corporations and offered shares to the public market. The initial investors gained a substantial wealth due to this, and the benefit of buying in early finally paid off. Nike then went to Europe to spread its market, and quickly learned that its objective was to not emulate adidas but rather become its own entity. This is exactly what we discussed in class about the differences that companies should expect in globalization due to the differences in national culture and the way business is run in different nations.

  50. Jeff Wolniewicz

    With only 90 pages left in the book I am anxious to see how Nike gets itself out of trouble. They grew too quickly and the company seemed to lose its identity. Nike grew because it was run by Knight’s inner circle independent of a true organizational structure. People switched jobs and roles routinely. This allowed them to act quickly and make the necessary moves. However, the company is struggling now because of their size and inability to react with speed to the changing market. As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, I feel that Phil Knight and Nike are simply very lucky. They have made poor business decisions and they have not read the market properly. The oversight of the aerobics industry allowed Reebok to gain market share. Had Nike been watching market trends they could have squashed Reebok before they became a power. Also, they have a habit of catching a wave that bails them out of trouble. They take a major gamble on Michael Jordan and it works for them and reverses the downward trend. So many things could have gone wrong with Jordan, he could have been a flop or gotten injured. They took a gamble and got possibly the greatest athlete of all time. Good foresight yes, but also lucky. I still hold that if Nike was starting today in the athletic shoe market that Knight and the company would not be successful. All in all, this book was a great look at one of the most influential sports companies of all time.

  51. George DeVardo

    As I approach the end of the book…it is hard to watch a company that was once based upon an unconventional and refreshing dream that all the orginal employees shared, experience such success, but at the expense of the original integrity this company once showed.

    Nike turned into every other company you read about today, and Knight’s luck finally ran out. Because up until this point besides some key decisions, most of them were left up to the managers who headed up whatever area the decision needed to be made in.

    Even people like Woodell who I believe had almost as much to do with the Nike as Knight was fired, and after that point I found it hard to admire Nike for what they were doing anymore. It truly became, and I quote, “a company full of whores.”

  52. Jennifer Gilligan

    As Nike continues to grow and expand internationally we see many changes happen in the company. First of all many of the men working there become instant millionaires. They are able to buy new homes, cars, and even planes. But this did not come without a downside. The company starts to lose focus of why they are in business. Instead of focusing on selling a great shoe, they concentrate on paying big name athletes to wear their shoes. Also because they have become so big they often come off as cold and impersonal to customers. This was not how Nike was built. Many of the original men who started the company become upset with the new Nike. They are not getting along with the middle managers and Knight seems to be secluding himself offering no input for his team members. Many of the main managers who built the company start to leave because they no longer agree with the way the company is being run.

  53. Niamh Delaney

    While I found this story extremely well researched, one miniscule detail nagged me every time I picked up the book-the title- “Swoosh: The Unauthorized Story of Nike and the Men Who Played There”. I cannot help but wonder why this novel is unauthorized. While, this book definitely can be considered a “tell all” about Nike, I do not believe that it in any way reflects negatively on the company. If anything, during the time I was reading the book I found myself rooting for Team Nike to pull through all of their close calls with disaster. I understand that the dissolution of the business relationship between Strasser and Knight was not a mutual decision, however “Swoosh” leads readers to believe that the split was amicable. My curiosity about this situation managed to get the better of me, and I turned to Wikipedia and Google for answers. Those searches turned up very little information (besides a reference to Rob Strasser’s unexpected passing in 1993). I have considered many possible scenarios for why this novel is unauthorized, none of which deter from the merits of the story. I a can only assume that J.B. Strasser wanted to paint her husband as a hero of this situation and a man who took the high road. She appears proud of him, especially in terms of his early work at Nike, and as his wife she would have been privy to all of the excitement and ups and downs of the young company. I believe that her Story about the creation of Nike and the early years is entirely accurate, I only call into question the accuracy of the dispute between Strasser and Knight in the novel.

  54. Swoosh: The unauthorized story of Nike…. | Business in Books – хороший пост, спасибо

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