JUST DO IT. Know more about this athlete-turned-businessman who helped inspire the “Running Boom” of the 1970s! [Monday: Marketing Marvels]
Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more.
A Note from Miles Everson:
Hooray for Monday!
How are you doing? We hope you’re ready to power through this awesome week.
Let’s start the day with motivation from our “Marketing Marvels.” Every Monday, we talk about these people’s experiences, insights, and contributions in their respective fields.
Today, we’ll focus on one of the legendary businessmen in the athleisure industry.
Continue reading to know how you can apply this “Marvel’s” insights and strategies in your own brand’s marketing efforts.
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute
Do you have a great idea you want to share with the world?
Are you ready to take on new challenges?
Do you want to become successful in life?
If your answer is “yes” to all these questions, here’s our advice for you:
JUST DO “IT!”
In today’s article, we’ll empower you to take on challenges—just like how this “Marvel” stayed on top of his game and co-founded one of the biggest brands in the athleisure industry.
Photo from Startup Talky
Bill Bowerman (February 19, 1911 – December 24, 1999) was a businessman, athlete, war hero, and coach. His contributions in the athleisure industry’s progression served—and continues to serve—as an example for entrepreneurs who want to be successful in their own endeavors too.
Let’s backtrack a bit to Bowerman’s humble beginnings in the sports industry…
During his high school days, Bowerman was a recognized football player in Medford High School in Massachusetts. He loved playing the sport and made sure to develop his athletic skills further.
When he entered college, he enrolled at the University of Oregon where he also played football for the university team. Additionally, he became a member of the university’s track and field team until he graduated.
It wasn’t simply being a player that Bowerman wanted out of his life. So, in 1934, he started his coaching career and trained various athletes at Franklin High School in Portland.
In 1944, Bowerman took a break from training athletes to join the American army. After 4 years, he went back to being a track and field coach. He became the head coach at the University of Oregon and introduced many innovative techniques that helped athletes perform better.
Bowerman had stellar success in his coaching career. His Oregon athletes won 4 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) national titles, 24 individual titles, and 16 Top 10 NCAA finishes. He trained 51 All-Americans, 12 American record-holders, and 31 Olympians.
An Insight into Being a Track and Field Coach
It was through his experiences as a track and field coach that Bowerman realized the importance of running shoes for tracksters. He felt extremely dissatisfied with what footwear companies were offering at that time.
In an effort to help his athletes perform better, he wrote to those companies and offered suggestions on how to make the shoes lighter. Unfortunately, he received no response so he set out to learn more about the footwear industry himself.
Bowerman created and customized shoes for many track athletes, including student-athlete Phil Knight and Olympic track star Otis Davis. As he continued creating various running shoes, he incorporated feedback from his trainees.
Bowerman’s first breakthrough in the footwear industry happened in 1964 when he and Knight co-founded Blue Ribbon Sports. The company operated in Oregon as a distributor of Onitsuka Tiger shoes.
In 1967, Bowerman designed a shoe with soft sponge rubber in the forefoot and heel, a cushioned inner sole, and a firm rubber outsole to provide more arch support for runners. Onitsuka released this shoe as the “Tiger Cortez.”
In 1971, Blue Ribbon Sports separated from Onitsuka Tiger. Afterwards, Bowerman and Knight co-founded Nike, one of America’s prominent athletic shoe making companies today.
[Fun fact: Bowerman and Knight didn’t choose Nike’s brand name without thought! In fact, they wanted to call the company, “Dimension 6” but they agreed to Jeff Johnson’s—the first full-time Blue Ribbon Sports employee—suggestion to name the company “Nike” after dreaming about the Greek Goddess of speed, strength, and victory. This was also where Nike’s logo, the Swoosh, took its inspiration from.]
Photo from Unsplash
Designing Shoes Using a Waffle Iron
After co-founding Nike, Bowerman continued his pursuit of creating footwear of higher quality for athletes.
He asked his wife to come up with an idea for the pattern on the soles of running shoes. His wife recommended turning a waffle iron upside down where the waffle pattern would come in contact with the track where the athletes run on.
With this idea, Bowerman went to his lab, prepared urethane, and poured them into the waffle iron. This first experiment was a failure, though—he was unable to open the iron because he forgot to spray a non-stick substance due to his excitement!
Although Bowerman’s first experiment failed, he was able to invent a new shoe design. He used the waffle pattern to create the first Nike shoes, a.k.a. the “Nike Moon Shoes.” The product was named as such due to the resemblance of its waffle-patterned tread to footprints left by astronauts on the Moon.
This product was the first out of many steps that put Nike to where it is today.
Photo from First Versions
There is more to Nike’s history than just starting with a shoe with an extraordinary tread pattern. Through Bowerman’s involvement with professional athletes, his running program, and shoe designs, he helped inspire the “Running Boom” of the 1970s, which Nike greatly benefited from.
Take a look at some of the business and marketing lessons we can learn from Bowerman and Nike’s story:
- Put your customers’ interests first.
Bowerman co-founded Nike because he wanted to make shoes that would help his athletes train better. He wasn’t simply trying to sell the shoes; he was also promoting an idea he believed would help customers in the long run.
Lesson: Customers are constantly looking for products that would benefit them and are worth their money. So, sell easily identifiable benefits to your target market!
Focus on how the products will benefit them instead of just focusing on how you can sell the actual product and make a profit. This will help you attract long-term customers and establish genuine connections with them.
- Incorporate customer feedback.
As Bowerman continued to experiment with different shoe designs and prototypes, he gathered and incorporated feedback from his athletes. He believed “a teacher is never too smart to learn from his pupils.”
As a result, he was able to make shoes that are more suitable for athletes’ needs.
Lesson: Welcoming feedback is a good starting point to improve your products and services. This will help you market your products or services better.
- Believe in the product you’re selling.
Nike wouldn’t have existed in the first place if Bowerman did not work towards his goal of promoting a sport and an idea he believed in. His prototypes were rejected by different companies many times, but he was persistent. His belief and passion to make a difference in the world of sports made marketing a lot easier.
Lesson: As a marketer, you have to show your customers you’re passionate about the product or service you’re selling. It will be easier to convince them to buy from you when they see how much you believe in the benefits of your product.
Today, Nike continues to provide its customers with remarkable offerings. It is one of the biggest brands in the sports industry, and athletes like Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, and Anderson Silva wear Nike products!
The company wouldn’t have been where it is today without Bowerman’s determination and desire to help athletes optimize their performance.
… and even though he’s already passed, he will always be remembered for his unwavering passion for the sport of running. He continues to serve as a pillar of support and inspiration in the running and business community.
Bowerman’s ideas live on as Nike carries on his desire to design shoes that improve performance and comfort for athletes at all levels. The brand has adapted its marketing strategies to new trends and technologies while staying consistent to the core of its identity, which is a customer-centric branding approach.
We hope you find inspiration from Bowerman and Nike’s story!
(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.)
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Monday Marketing Marvels”
Too often, industry experts and the marketing press sing the praises of some brand or company’s marketing strategy.
… only for the audience to later find out that its product was a flop, or worse, that the brand or company went bankrupt.
The true ROI in marketing can’t be separated from the business as a whole.
What good is a marketing case study if one can’t prove that the company’s efforts actually paid off?
At the end of the day, either the entire business is successful or it isn’t. And the roles of marketing and communication are always paramount to that success.
Every Monday, we publish a case study that highlights the world’s greatest marketing strategies, marketers, and communicators.
However, the difference between our articles and the numerous ones out there is that we will always make certain that the firm really did generate and demonstrate earning power worthy of study in the first place (compliments of Valens Research’s finance group) in keeping with a person’s leadership skills in the area of marketing and/or communication.
We’ll also study the greatest marketing fails and analyze what they did wrong, or what they needed to improve. We all make our mistakes, but better we learn from others’ mistakes—and earlier, rather than later.
Hope you found this week’s marketing marvel interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next week’s Monday Marketing Marvels!
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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