The Mega Brands that Built America Recap for Sneaker Head to Head

The Mega Brands that Built America Recap for Sneaker Head to Head

The Mega Brands that Built America Recap for Sneaker Head to Head

-This week’s episode of The Mega Brands That Built America delves into the birth of Adidas and Nike, the most iconic sneaker brands of all time.

-Before sneakers became what they are today, they were made of wood and even as they evolved, they were mostly worn by athletes.

-Adidas was the most comfortable and favorite shoe of athletes, being worn by over 70% of athletes in the Olympics. It was founded by Adi Dassler in Germany.

-Phil Knight, who was a college athlete in his own right, decided to write a thesis paper on athletic shoes. He discovers a Japanese brand of sneakers and decides to bring a similar type of shoe to America. These shoes were lightweight and breathable, making it more comfortable.

-Phil gets in touch with the company in order to become a distributor. The company is interested and wants to know the name of his company….so….while on the spot…..calls it Blue Ribbon Sports Company.

-Despite landing a distribution deal, he has trouble getting the shoes on shelves. He talks to his former coach and mentor Bill Bowerman for help. The two of them decide to collaborate and come up with what he now know as Nike.

-The two men begin selling shoes, but it is a slow start that puts them in debt. They also see issues with the shoes when athletes complain about their toes getting squished.

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-Bill decides to pull the shoe apart and reconstruct it to make it more comfortable, using a foam midsole. At first, Phil is apprehensive, but he is soon delighted with the new, more comfortable shoe.

-Onitsuka, the brand that gave them the distribution deal, allows them to make their own version of the shoe. They change the name to the Aztec, which puts them in direct competition with Adidas, especially with the Olympics looming.

-Adidas gets wind of this and, with the help of Adi’s son Horst, sues Phil and Bill over the name. They quickly change the name to the Cortez, which is launched in time for the Olympics.

-The Olympics helped launch the company and appealed to the masses. Not only were they comfortable and affordable, but they were also a fashion statement.

-The Cortez skyrocketed and began making thousands of dollars.

-Horst wants in on the action and to stay a step ahead of the competition. He decides to launch a line of sneakers for basketball players. Despite Adi’s disapproval, he decides to go for it….even though Converse was already in the basketball game.

-Onitsuka wants in on the ownership of the Cortez shoe/Blue Ribbon, but the men decide to part ways and make their own company….what we know as Nike.

-Before the name is decided, they have a competition to pick a new name. An employee suggests Nike, which came to him in a dream.

-Now that they had a name, they must come up with their new sneakers before the next Olympics.

-Horst is working on his basketball sneakers, which have an almost suction cup design on the soles. He pitches the idea to an NBA coach and has him try it on. Despite some initial apprehension, the San Diego Rockets decide to wear the new Adidas sneakers that season.

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-Nike was working on running shoes for the Olympics and come up with a new design…inspired by waffles made by his wife. He borrows the waffle iron and gets to work….coming up with the rubber sole we know and love today.

-After that is out of the way, they come up with a new logo….the swoop or woosh of air that is on sneakers and athletic wear around the world. Phil isn’t sure, but decides they should go for it.

-The new Nike shoe debuted at the Munich Olympics and became a groundbreaking moment for Nike, making the business worth millions.

-Adidas also sees success with their new shoe, thanks to it being worn by Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Despite this, Adi was not happy with Horst being so proactive, causing a fight between the men.

-Two years later, Adi dies, leaving the company to his wife and daughter, cutting Horst out.

-Seeing the success of Adidas, Nike makes its own basketball shoe, thanks to a scientist named Frank Rudy. He suggested a pressurized air bag, or shock absorber into the midsole to help the athletes perform better. Phil decides to give it a shot on a model pair and thinks they have a hit on their hands. Enter the Air Force One sneakers.

-While the shoe performed well, sales plummeted. They were about to give up…until they get a rookie basketball player on their team…the man the world knows as Michael Jordan.

-Michael initially wanted to wear Adidas, but was offered a multi-million dollar deal to wear Nike….a gamble that became the largest sneaker deal in history….complete with a shoe named after him and 25% in royalties. They made him special red and black sneakers, even though players were required to wear white sneakers.

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-Michael is fined every time he wore the shoes, which Nike paid. It even led to an ad campaign that helped sales reach $30 million dollars. The company itself would make $150 million that year.

-Back in Germany, Horst gets control back when his mother dies. He decides to appeal to the hip hop company by signing with Run DMC. This helped launch Adidas into the lifestyle company.

-Sadly, Horst would die one year later in 1987, but his legacy would live on.

-Both Nike and Adidas are now worth billions.

-More next time, stay tuned!

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