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The History of Nike Football

The History of Nike Football

Article by: Mitchell Grimes

Thu, Jan 06.22

  • #news
  • #Nike
  • The History of Nike Football

    The story of Nike goes back to the 1950s where Phil Knight was attending the University of Oregon putting him into contact with the school’s track and field coach Bill Bowerman. 


    Bowerman & Knight and founded Blue Ribbon Sports in January 1964 which initially focussed on cheaper yet still high quality alternatives to adidas and Puma sneakers from Germany which had dominated the market. 


    In 1971 Nike’s football journey begun, releasing their first football boot with the 1970 World Cup in Mexico in mind, although no players ended up taking it to Mexico. The boot was the first shoe in Nike’s history to feature the famous swoosh and was only available in U.S. size 9. 

    Nike 1971

    The boot sold well initially at just $16.95 but was very much made for the warmer climate of Mexico, so as the weather turned cold in the U.S the boots wouldn’t hold up and would crack.

    The relative failure of the boot meant that Nike turned their attention to other sports and wouldn’t get back into the football market for nearly a decade. 


    In 1978 Nike went back to football. Nike signed the Portland professional team to an equipment deal and within two years, Nike had contracts with 10 associations and nearly 40 players across America. 

    Portland 1978 Nike Jersey


    Four years later in 1982 Nike had several breakthrough’s in football, signing their first English side, Aston Villa to a boot deal where all other teams in Europe preferred adidas & Puma. Nike couldn’t have picked a better side, with Aston Villa going on to conquer Europe, beating Bayern Munich in the final of the European Cup with every single player wearing a pair of Nike’s. 

    Aston Villa 1982 Nike

    Also in 1982, Nike managed to sign one of the best players in the world, Ian Rush as their first big football athlete & signed Sunderland to a kit deal, becoming the first side in Europe to wear a Nike branded jersey. 

    Ian Rush Nike 1982



    In 1993 Nike signed their first female football player; Mia Hamm to an endorsement deal. Hamm went on to set the record for most international goals scored, male or female. 

    Mia Hamm Nike 1993


    In 1994, 24 years after their failed attempt at Mexico 1970, Nike managed to get 8 of Brazils World Cup winning squad in the new Nike Tiempo Premier boot, Brazil were crowned champions in California and Phil Knight was determined to sponsor the National team. 

    Brazil 1994

    In 1994 Nike also signed the U.S national team to uniform and apparel contract for men's & women's, a deal which still stands to this day. 


    In 1996 Nike signed with the best International team in the World, the Brazil Football Federation. 

    The U.S. women’s national team wins the first gold ever in the women’s soccer final in Atlanta wearing Nike kits. 

    Nike Womens Gold Medal 1996



    Ahead of the 1998 World Cup in France, Nike used the Brazil national team for their major commercial. The famous ad was directed by John Woo and was shot in the Rio de Janeiro airport. 

    Also in 1998 Nike debuted the all new synthetic leather Mercurial boot on Ronaldo’s feet on football’s biggest stage in France. Brazil narrowly missed out on another World Cup win, finishing runners up to the home nation with Ronaldo being named the tournaments best player. 

    Ronaldo Nike Mercurial 1998


    In 1999 the U.S national team won the women's World Cup on home soil in California, beating China after Penalties. Nike athlete Brandi Chastain scored the winning penalty, and took her shirt off in an iconic celebration, showcasing the Nike sports-bra prototype. 

    Nike 1999 Womens World Cup


    After an extremely successful decade in international football, Nike turned its attention to club football and became the kit supplier for one of the biggest clubs in the world; Manchester United in 2002.

    Beckham Nike 2002 Manchester United

    For the 2002 World Cup Nike launched their ‘secret tournament’ which stands as one of the most iconic football marketing campaigns to date. The Secret Tournament or ‘Skorpion KO’ featured 8 teams with the likes of Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Francesco Totti & of course Eric Cantona as referee. Along with the tv commercial, the campaign featured local tournaments all around the World. 

    Nike Cage advert 2002

    On the pitch in Japan, Brazil won their fifth World Cup trophy, with two goals in the final from Ronaldo, tying the Brazilian record of 12 career goals on football’s greatest stage wearing Nike Mercurials and a Nike kit. 

    Ronaldo Nike 2002 World Cup


    In 2005 Nike invented the viral video to launch the new Tiempo. The advertisement shows Ronaldinho firing a ball off a crossbar four times in a row without the ball hitting the ground. It soon became YouTube’s first video to receive over a million views. 


    In 2010 Nike went viral again with their ‘Write the Future’ campaign which became the most shared campaign on the internet. The 3 minute ad feature Wayne Rooney, Ronaldinho, Frank Ribery & Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the World Cup in South Africa.


    In 2013 Nike launched the Hypervenom boot designed to help forwards create space quickly and get shots off from any angle. Nike gained insights from Neymar Jr. and Wayne Rooney to address the increased speed of the game and inform the new boot.

    Nike Hypervenom Neymar


    In 2014 Nike introduced a new version of the Mercurial with a flyknit upper called the Mercurial Superfly, built for the fastest players on the planet. 

    Nike Mercurial Superfly 2014


    In 2017 Nike signed a long term deal with French wonder-kid Kyllian Mbappe, seen as the successor to Cristiano Ronaldo as Nike's star athlete.  

    Mbappe Nike 2017

    Today Nike have kit deals with some of the biggest clubs & nations in the world with; Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, PSG, Croatia, England & Brazil and are now dominating he football market, 50 years on from 1971. 

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