What is the connection between a brand of shoes and a Greek Godess? – Dr Dawn Gould

The connection in South Africa is a reference not only to the brand name NIKE shoes sold here but also to mythology because the word NIKe is the name of the Greek goddess of speed and victory.  It is a shoe used not only by professional athletes – this country has given birth to many superb athletes –  but also by leisure walkers, runners etc. A make of shoe that, in the eyes of the owner, confers a certain status as to athletic competency.   


The history and development of the Nike shoe to the product it is today, is an interesting one.  From the research undertaken, the development followed two threads.  On the one hand there was American Phil Knight who wished to find a way of making a living and who was deeply attached to athletics.  On the other hand there was fellow American Bill Bowerman who was a coach at the University of Oregon – Knight had run there in 1959. Bowerman wanted a better quality running shoe for his athletes.  In the 1960s Knight studying at Stanford for an MBA had to write a business and marketing plan. The thinking of the time was that Japan could produce a high quality but low cost shoe which could then be distributed in the USA.  Knight travelled to Japan and met a representative of Tiger shoes – the result? Knight began selling Tiger shoes from the boot of his motorcar.

Success followed, Knight and Bowerman began working together and even hired another salesman.  Now it seemed – the early 1970s – was the right time for the Nike Company to come into being.  Its trademark logo, the swoosh, was designed in 1971 by Caroline Davidson. It kind of looks like a tick or check sign.   The dictionary definition of the word is “a noise of or resembling a rush of air” – perhaps a good description of the sound made as a fast runner passes the winning post – aided by his/her Nike shoes.