February 25th, 2021

When you see those three iconic words, ‘Just do it’, you don’t even need to see the brand name or the notorious tick to know what brand we’re talking about. But where did a brand so notorious to be known by just an icon and tagline come from?

Nike, which was originally known as Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS), was founded by track athlete Phil Knight and his coach, Bill Bowerman, at the University of Oregon, USA. Phil ran for the school’s track and field team whilst his coach, Bowerman, displayed a wildly admirable fascination with optimising his runners’ shoes, constantly experimenting with different models after learning from a local cobbler.

Credit: Nike

This set the trajectory of their future and they founded BRS on January 25, 1964. Seven years later, BRS rebranded and launched its own line of footwear; the company was rechristened ‘Nike’, after the Greek goddess of victory. Little did they know that the brand would go on to dress some of the biggest sports stars in the world, become a platform for the unheard and be a leader to brands worldwide; inspiring, enthralling and motivating us all. 

Nike promises to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world, so throughout their business they have always set a precedent for inspiring change. They have focused their efforts on corporate responsibility in the areas in which they can have the greatest impact and can create the most value for social and environmental betterment, using the power and the scale of their brand, not to mention the passion of the people, to create a meaningful, and moreover, lasting change. 

Credit: Nike

Today, the opportunity is greater than ever for sustainability, as social and economic challenges in the world proliferate, people are looking for brands to contribute to change. This demands the best performances and identifying the most significant impact areas, which include: community, energy and climate, labour, chemistry, water and waste.

Recognising this, in 2019 Nike introduced Move to Zero, a journey towards zero carbon and zero waste to help protect the future. The announcement of Move to Zero came on the eve of the Global Climate Strike; a week-long international event held in September whereby protesters in 150 countries demonstrated in support of action on climate change. It has been well documented and becoming more and more televised that temperature shifts are on the rise, with the number of days above 90F increasing by almost 25% since the 1980’s, so only a 40 year difference for those of you calculating, a small time frame when it comes to forever. Move to Zero builds upon existing company-wide efforts, including Nike’s aim to power facilities with 100% renewable energy by 2025 and operate with net-zero carbon emissions. This will include eliminating single-use plastics on Nike campuses worldwide and investing in existing circular design products, such as its FlyKnit shoes and jerseys, which are constructed from recycled plastic bottles. Move to Zero is a response to the realities we face as a world, it’s a comprehensive sustainability plan designed to help protect the planet which will in turn protect the future of sport, so a plan that we should all be invested in. 

Credit: Nike

Our purpose is to unite the world through sport to create a healthy planet, active communities and an equal playing field for all.”

Through this, Nike reflects transparency and humanity, continuously speaking to the consumer about their perspective on the things that matter, and what they aim to do on a much larger scale outside of just sports clothing and equipment. They are a brand that engages with their customer on a level that is crucial, prioritising deep cultivating relationships with their consumers that result in a lifetime of loyalty. After all, a brand cannot thrive if its customer doesn’t believe in it and it’s seen as a corporate machine that has no depth or soul, especially in an age where information is so easily accessible and customers can quickly find out if a brand is acting on their promise, or not. This is vital if you want to be able to grow a brand and give the audience something to connect to, something which Nike recognises which is why it has worked hard to be our go-to friend, the friend that we speak to about our worldly concerns and the friend that helps find a solution.

Credit: Nike

Nike remained true to their promise about voicing their perspective on the things that matter, not shying away from its political stances, again in 2019. Days before the 4th July, the company cancelled the release of a sneaker bearing the 13-star American flag of Betsy Ross on the shoe’s heel. Reportedly, this decision came after Colin Kaepernick, a Nike supporter and brand ambassador who had featured in the Nike Dream Crazy ad the previous year, privately voiced his criticisms of the design to Nike, seeing as the 13-star flag was associated with a time where the world was subjected to the inhumane trauma of slavery. This sparked media frenzy with conservative pundits and social media commentators criticising Nike for its lack of patriotism. However, Nike were valiant, instead of brushing the harsh reality of racism under the carpet, they recognised that the sale of the shoe would go against everything they stand for; so they stood tall and stood with their decision, just as they had the previous year; taking the knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick for the injustice of police brutality against black males in the US and around the entire world. 

To be a truly responsible brand your responsibility has to be ingrained in your business and not just a one off, and that is why Nike continues to stand by its beliefs. This can be seen in their latest campaign, ‘For once, don’t do it’, a powerful play on its iconic tagline, with the film urging people to not turn their backs on racism following the tragic death of George Floyd on the 25th May 2020. 

This is true responsibility, using their efforts and taking the necessary measures of accountability in areas of diversity and inclusion, understanding the consumer’s deep rooted pain that stems from thoughtless actions and not being afraid to speak on it because now is not the time to stand back and be silent, it’s a time for reflection.  The world is watching now more than ever how their favourite brands and its leaders will stand by the black community and the steps they will take to help towards ending racism globally.  Nike has taken those steps, Nike took the knee and continues to stand by the black community, standing firm in the hope that we will have ‘victory’ over these injustices. And that we will all be united by a common thread, the human thread.  

Below we will leave you with a conversation between Lebron James and Phil knight where James confided in Phil that his son was about to start driving and he worried that as a young black man he might get shot by a policeman. Phil said his son had also started driving then he thought:

 “I thought of the top hundred worries I have, and that doesn’t make my list. That was a real eye-opener. It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it. And as long as you have that attitude, you can’t be afraid of offending people. You can’t try and go down the middle of the road. You have to take a stand on something.”Phil Knight

Written by Jelissa Williamson, Creative Writer. 

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