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Nike Swoosh
The Nike Swoosh, designed by Carolyn Davidson and used by Nike, Inc.

The Swoosh, is the logo of American athletic shoe and clothing manufacturer Nike, Inc.. Today, it has become one of the most recognizable brand logos in the world, and the most profitable, having a worth of $26 billion alone. [1][2][3] Harvard Business School professor, Stephen A. Greyser, has described the logo as "the living, vibrant symbol of the firm." [4]

Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight founded Nike on January 25, 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS). Upon changing its name to Nike, Inc. on May 30, 1971, the company adapted the Swoosh as its official logo the same year. Carolyn Davidson, a student at Portland State University, created the logo, attempting to convey motion in its design. It also symbolizes the wing of Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory, from which the company derived its current name. [5]

The logo has undergone minor changes from its original design in 1971, today most commonly seen as a solo swoosh, although for much of its' history, the logo incorporated the NIKE name alongside the Swoosh. Over the years, the red and white color palette has traditionally been used on the logo, although most recently a solid black swoosh has gained significant popularity. [6]

The Swoosh has appeared alongside the trademark "Just Do It" since 1988. Together, these two make up the core of Nike's brand, and has been the face of the company, with many high-profile athletes and sports teams around the world sporting the logos. [7]


The Nike Swoosh is a corporate trademark created in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, while she was a graphic design student at Portland State University. It was here that she met Phil Knight, who was at the time teaching accounting classes at the university. Knight had overheard that Davidson was in search of extra funds in order for her to take oil painting classes, so he offered to pay Davidson to do some freelance work for his company, Blue Ribbon Sports (later Nike, Inc.) Knight offered to pay Davidson $2 per hour (about $14 per hour today) for the work that she completed. [8]

For seven years after its founding in 1964, BRS primarily imported Onitsuka Tiger brand running shoes from Japan. In 1971, Knight had decided to launch his own brand of shoes, which would first appear as cleated shoes for football or soccer, and had a factory in Mexico ready to make the shoes. All Knight needed was a "stripe"—the industry term for a shoe logo—to go with his new brand, so he approached Davidson for design ideas. He had asked Davidson to make sure the stripe conveyed motion and did not look similar to the three stripes of Adidas. Over the ensuing weeks, she created at least a half-dozen marks and gathered them together to present to Knight, Bob Woodell and Jeff Johnson (two BRS executives) at the company's home office, at the time located in Tigard, Oregon. [9][10]

They ultimately selected the mark now known globally as the Swoosh. "I don't love it," Knight told her, "but I think it will grow on me." [11] Once the choice was made, Davidson asked for more time in order to refine the work she had done on the Swoosh, however, Knight stated that the company had production deadlines to meet and needed the logo as soon as possible. For her services, the company paid her $35 ($206 in 2015 dollars), citing that she worked 17.5 hours on creating the Swoosh, although Davidson claims that she is certain she worked more hours on the design.[12][13] In September 1983, Knight gave Davidson a golden Swoosh ring with an embedded diamond, and an envelope filled with 500 shares of Nike stock to express his gratitude.[14] At the time, the shares were worth around $8,000 ($18,000 today) and because Davidson never cashed out the shares, today they are worth shy of a million dollars. Davidson claims to this day that she is not a millionaire but lives comfortably. [15][16]

The Swoosh was officially patented on June 18, 1971 and in June 1972, at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, Nike's first official track shoe, the Nike Cortez, was released to the athletes sporting the fresh new Swoosh. [17][18]

Design and Color[edit]

Nike co-founder, Phil Knight, was adamant that his company's new logo be a simple design that is fluid and conveys motion and speed. Knight was very outspoken about his love for rival shoe manufacturer, Adidas', logo, which incorporated three thick stripes. He had talked with Carolyn Davidson about ensuring Nike's new design not resemble that of Adidas. The logo is also said to symbolize the wing of the famous Greek Goddess of Victory, Nike. [19][20][21]

When first released, the design was displayed in a variety of colors in order to stand out on the track from other shoe manufacturers. [22] Nike then traditionally used the red and white color palette on its logo for much of its history. The red is meant to exemplify passion, energy and joy, while the white color represents nobility, charm and purity. [23]

Until 1994, the official corporate logo for Nike featured the name NIKE in Futura Bold, all-cap font, cradled within the Swoosh. In 1995, Nike began using the stand-alone Swoosh as its corporate logo as a form of debranding, and continues to use it that way today, while also using a simple black color palette for the Swoosh. [24]

Brand Image[edit]

One of the most recognized brand logos in the world, the Swoosh, has made Nike one of the most successful brands and most highly valued. The Nike brand alone is valued at a worth of $26 billion alone. Nike spends about 10% of annual revenues on advertising and promotions alone.

Nike has taken athletes and fitted them with the Swoosh logo to create a superior value. The endorsements of Romanian tennis player Ilie Nastase and distance runner Steve Prefontaine kicked off Nike's brand sponsorships and today they endorse hundreds of athletes. Nike's endorsements with Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in basketball, Cristiano Ronaldo in soccer, Tiger Woods in golf, and Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in tennis are among the 15 biggest athlete endorsement deals in sports history. The idea behind celebrity endorsements is the consumer will associate the endorser with Nike's products, thus making the brand more desirable and valuable. Consumers tend to idealize athletes striving for their athletic ability and when these ideologies are translated into the Swoosh through endorsements, the Nike logo builds its value. [25][26]

Nike's Heritage[edit]

Nike is the name of the winged goddess of victory in Greek mythology. According to the mythology, she sat at the side of Zeus in Olympus. Nike is said to have presided over history's earliest battlefields as she flew around rewarding the victors with glory and fame, symbolized by a wreath of leaves. She was often found next to the goddess of Wisdom and War, Athena, who is said to never put up with defeat.

Within statues and paintings, Nike is represented as a woman with wings, dressed in robes, with a wreath in her outstretched hand. To represent her role as the messenger of victory, she is shown with the staff of Hermes. In Athens, the statue of Nike is portrayed without wings and is called Nike Apteron (Wingless Victory). Nike's wings were removed from the statue so she would not fly away, as the Athenians believed doing so would indicate her permanent stay in the city. [27]

The Swoosh is meant to symbolize the spirit and wing of the goddess. Nike inspired the most courageous warriors during battle and she symbolizes the victorious battles that occurred. Today, the Greeks would say, "When we go to battle and win, we say it is Nike." [28]

Besides Nike Inc., who embodied their name and logo from the Greek goddess, other modern day companies chose to represent Nike as well; car company Rolls Royce features Nike as a hood ornament on their automobiles and Honda Automobile Company's logo is inspired by the goddess. Additionally, the first FIFA World Cup trophy featured Nike holding a vessel. [29]


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