10 Facts About Nike Swoosh Logo That Will Drop Your Jaw

by Mark Stephens

From a serial killer’s last words to shoes that can be paired with smartphones, here are some jaw-dropping facts about Nike you didn’t know!

Nike, the #1 brand in the sporting industry and the 14th most valuable brand in the world, has many secrets up its sleeves! Yes, there is a serial killer involved and shoes that can be paired with smartphones and secret marketing strategies too!

If you are an American, the chances are, you at least own one pair of shoes manufactured by Nike. But, how has Nike managed to reach the number one spot and retained it for years, if not decades? Well, the answer lies in their business strategy. The sports goods manufacturer believes in something known as “emotional marketing.” The sports goods giant also spends a substantial amount of money on sports sponsorships—more than any company in the world!

Fun fact: The company was initially named “Blue Ribbon Sports.” In 1971, Blue Ribbon Sports decided to change its name to Nike – the Greek goddess of victory.

Who wore the first Nike shoes?

Well, Otis Davis claims that Bill Bowerman designed the first Nike shoes for him! But, who is Otis Davis? Davis, a University of Oregon student-athlete and a winner of two gold medals at the 1960 Summer Olympics, believes that his coach, Bill Bowerman, designed the first Nike shoes for him. The claim contradicts that the first shoes were for Phil Knight.

According to Davis, “I told Tom Brokaw that I was the first. I don’t care what all the billionaires say. Bill Bowerman made the first pair of shoes for me. People don’t believe me. In fact, I didn’t like the way they felt on my feet. There was no support and they were too tight. But I saw Bowerman made them from the waffle iron, and they are mine.”

The Greek warriors always bowed down before Nike, the goddess of victory, before heading to the battlefield. They believed that the goddess had the power to grant victory to the righteous and the courageous. The Greek warriors screamed “Nike” after a victorious day on the battlefield.

When designers create a logo, they think about various ways to align it with the brand. Additionally, they ensure the meaning behind the logo design matches the brand identity. Just like the Greek warriors and the goddess of victory, Nike and its logo go hand-in-hand.

10 Surprising Facts About The Nike Swoosh Logo

1. Where did the inspiration for the logo come from?

The brand is named after the Greek goddess of victory: Nike. But, you already know that. The designer of the now-iconic logo was a young college student when she designed the emblem. She was inspired by the Greek goddess and spent a lot of hours designing the emblem. The Greek goddess of victory is seen with her wings spread in most paintings and sculptures. The Winged Victory of Samothrace in Louvre, Paris, is a famous sculpture of the winged goddess. The designer has beautifully showcased the beauty of the goddess through her logo design.

2. How much did the iconic logo cost?

Carolyn Davidson was offered $2 per hour by Phil Knight to “letter some signs.” Carolyn was a student at Portland University when Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike, approached her to create a logo. Carolyn was talking to her friends about her interest in oil painting classes, which she could not take due to a lack of funds. Phil, who was teaching an accounting class, overheard the conversation and requested her to create a logo for $2 an hour. By the end of the day, Carolyn made $35 and handed Phil the iconic Nike Swoosh.

3. The Nike Swoosh was red and not black!

Yes that is true! The original Nike Swoosh designed by Carolyn Davidson was red and remained so for a long time. Nike used red and white color schemes, which attracted people instantly. Red portrayed passion, victory, energy, and joy, and white symbolized the purity and nobility of the company.

Colors play an important role in establishing brand identity. Colors and shapes must convey the idea behind the brand. Nike is the goddess of victory, and using the color red helped the brand identify with triumph and passion.

4. “Just Do It” were the last words of a serial killer!

Gary Mark Gilmore, an American criminal, is known for demanding the execution of his own death. Gilmore had admitted killing two women in Utah, for which he was given a death sentence. Gilmore was strapped to a chair while five gunmen stood behind a curtain waiting to execute the death warrant. As his last words, Gilmore uttered the words, “Just Do It.”

Dan Wieden, an advertising executive and the founder of Wieden+Kennedy, pitched the slogan, “Just Do It,” to Nike officials. Wieden later revealed that the slogan was inspired by the Utah killer.

Fact: Before Nike popularized the “Just Do It” slogan, it was used by various brands to advertise their products and services at the time. The caption has been ranked among the top 5 taglines of the 20th century.

5. The first Swoosh was on “The Nike” football boot

Contrary to the popular belief, Nike did not use the first Swoosh on a snicker. In fact, the Nike sneakers did not bear the Swoosh emblem at all! In 1971, Nike launched “The Nike” football boot. Priced at $16.95, “The Nike” was the first shoe to bear the Swoosh. Nike on its official blog mentions: “It cost $16.95, didn’t hold up well in cold and wet weather and soon fell by the wayside as Nike focused on running, tennis and basketball footwear. But it was a start.”

10 Facts About Nike Swoosh Logo That Will Drop Your Jaw

Image: Nike (The Nike, 1971) 

6. Adidas – the challenger

Research is key to forming successful marketing strategies. Conducting research on your competitors will allow you to be a few steps ahead of them. Carolyn knew that Nike wanted to compete with Adidas, which is why she studied their logo before starting with the Nike logo. The Reebok logo had three lines, which grew longer, portraying energy and action. For the Swoosh, she took the three lines from Reebok and gave it one swift motion.

7.  17.5 hours of logo designing

Simple logos connect with people easily since they do not focus on unnecessary details. Simple logos also attract people because they convey the most important aspects of a brand with minimum effort. However, designing a simple logo is not as simple as it sounds; it took Carolyn 17.5 hours to achieve perfection. A lot of thinking went into making that one simple yet powerful-looking logo!

8. The Swoosh was rejected repeatedly!

The world-famous design was repeatedly rejected; however, Carolyn was not disheartened. The company owners did not like the design and asked Carolyn if she had prepared anything else as a substitute. While Carolyn made attempts to improve the logo, Phil Knight was far from being impressed. Carolyn finally gave up and handed the company the invoice.

9.  Carolyn Davidson’s contribution recognized

In 1983, Phil Knight, the same person who rejected Carolyn’s design, recognized her contribution to the growth of Nike. In a surprise party organized for Carolyn Davidson, Knight gave a Swoosh-shaped diamond ring along with 500 shares of the company. The shares are worth half a million dollars today. From being paid $35 to owning 500 shares, Carolyn Davidson has a story to tell! 

10. Phil Knight almost named the iconic sports brand “Dimension Six”!

In his 2016 memoir “Shoe Dog,” Phil Knight mentions that he wanted to rebrand Blue Ribbon Sports in 1971. Knight finalized the name “Dimension 6” and was making arrangements to file the patent paperwork. Jeff Johnson, the company’s first employee, called the office just on time to inform them about a dream he had the night before the patent was due. He told Knight that he had seen the word Nike in his dream!

And, those were the 10 jaw-dropping facts about Nike you did not know. I am sure you want to know more interesting facts about Nike. Well, I have more for you in the next section!

Bonus: How Nike Just Do It

Shoes that can be paired with a smartphone!

Nike has always been about technology and innovation. The company has always found ways to give athletes the best. In its attempt to integrate technology with products, Nike has introduced shoes that can be paired with smartphones. These footwear contain a device embedded deep into them, which can easily be connected to the smartphone of the person wearing the shoe. 

73,300 employees worldwide!

As of 2021, there are more than 73, 300 happy employees working for Nike globally. In an article published on Forbes , Jorge Casimiro, Chief Social and Community Impact Officer, Nike, Inc., mentions: “We do what we call” Give Your best. An employee might want to connect to their purpose by volunteering at their kid’s school. Or it might be a homeless shelter. We have 74,000 employees and we say to all of them, ‘if you want to do something there, we’re going to support you.’”

Nike’s marketing strategies to become the leader

Nike’s success lies in its marketing strategies. Their winning marketing strategies have made them one of the leading and most valuable brands in the world. The following are some of Nike’s winning marketing strategies:

  • Nike has established their visual identity through various marketing investments.
  • Nike’s focus is not on selling products but on the “emotional benefits” of the products.
  • Nike acquires new or competing brands.
  • Nike innovates and adopts technology.
  • Nike focuses on making its products better for athletes.

Nike thrives because of competition

As long as there is completion, Nike will thrive and excel. When Nike’s competitors are doing a lot, Nike does more. And, when the competitors are silent, Nike leads the pack by starting something new. Nike is truly a champion when it comes to beating or starting a competition. Nike was the first to launch a website: 7 years ahead of Adidas. Nike was also the first to understand and use the power of social media.

Nike brand positioning

Nike uses emotional branding based on the idea of heroism. The consumers are led to believe that they can find strength, self-determination, and greatness to become a hero. However, a great hero needs a greater villain. Nike has created internal villains such as laziness, fears, and self-doubt. Nike inspires people to combat these internal villains to emerge a hero in life.

Here is how Nike uses emotional branding.

In Conclusion

From its humble beginnings to becoming one of the most recognizable visual identities in history, the Nike Swoosh has a story worth sharing. The uncomplicated and minimalistic design is a textbook example of the impact a simple-looking logo can produce.

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