Never afraid to tackle the big issues, we dig into the sneaker game’s biggest rivalry: The Three Stripes VS. The Swoosh. Why is one better than the other? Which one comes out on top – as our illustration shows – in the ultimate battle of the brands? Read the story, then read the opposite perspective here.
There’s no denying the fact that adidas has made a lot of right moves in the past few years. But while the hype could lead you to believe that the Three Stripes have taken over everything – and jumped over Jumpman as some may claim – the Portland-based powerhouse with the Swoosh is still the most valuable sports brand on the planet. And you could also argue that it’s still the world’s number one sneaker brand – owning 95% of the U.S. basketball shoe market according to Forbes – and will continue to lead in the future. Here are 9 reasons why Nike (still) reigns supreme.
1. Nike has the most dynamic logo on the planet. Although it was famously designed by then student Carolyn Davidson for a few bucks, the Swoosh is one of the best logos of all time. It’s simple, looks great on a shoe or anything else and suggests activity, arousal and victory at the same time – perfect for a sports brand.
2. Nike started with running. There’s no point in denying that the sneaker game has slowly shifted its focus to running, even in the US. And regardless of all that Jordan hype, Nike started out as a running company – and not just track-and-field running. Co-founder Bill Bowerman recognized the potential of “jogging” in the early ‘60s, and published a book with that title in 1966. His ideas led to the creation of a running shoe that would ultimately be named the “Cortez” in 1968.
3. Nike has Jordan. Despite its roots in running, Nike has been synonymous with basketball – and basketball is Jordan, to some extent. Together they formed the cornerstones for the rise of a global sneaker culture. Although adidas has had successful basketball shoes a decade before, it was his Airness who popularized sneakers as a fashion and style item. The Air Jordan 1 was also designed by Peter Moore, almost a decade before the same Peter Moore would design the “three bars logo” which is now synonymous with adidas Equipment.
4. Nike has Back to the Future. Nike’s use of this movie wasn’t just smart product placement but arguably the most brilliant and long-term marketing move of the millennium, spanning three decades in the rollout. First: presenting the Nike Bruin in part 1 in 1985 – in one of the most iconic pop-cultural movies ever. Second: Fictionally imagining how sneakers would evolve 30 years later in part 2 and introducing the Nike Mag. Third: actually releasing that shoe as predicted in the movie – finally with power-lacing and endorsement by Michael J. Fox – no other company even comes close.
5. Nike owns basketball. Not because of names like Michael Jordan, Lebron James or Kevin Durant but because the Swoosh owns the category – today. With a market share of 95% in the U.S. there’s no way around the fact, although adidas is making a lot of right moves at the moment.
6. Nike owns collaborations. Although you will find single collaborations from other companies dating back to the 1970s or even before, Nike invented the collab game as we know it. From late ‘90s releases like the Wu-Tang Clan X Nike Dunk High or all of the Stüssy collabs from the early 2000s up to the whole Nike SB program including all the Supreme Dunks – Nike got the ball rolling.
7. Nike invented limited edition retros. It’s hard to imagine but back in the days, a shoe was done when the next model came out. Thanks to a few east coast US retailers, Nike realized that there was a potential in retroing the Air Force 1 in a limited edition “color of the month” program. Watch the Air Force 1 documentary for the complete story.
8. Nike has the most famous designers. Even beyond the famous architect-turned-sneaker-designer Tinker Hatfield, there are other designers whose names have become synonymous with sneaker culture – like Bruce Kilgor (Air Force 1), Sergio Lozano (Air Max 95), Eric Avar (Air Foamposite One) or even Tinker’s own brother Tobie Hatfield (Nike Free). Fragment Design’s Hiroshi Fujiwara should also be mentioned because of his close ties with Nike.
9. Nike has the best ads in the archive. Marketing has always been Nike’s strong suit. Just look through their archive and relive the gems they’ve produced over the decades – from beautiful vintage running ads to the ever-so-classic “Bo Knows” campaign. This is brand-building at its best.
Liked the story? Then read the opposite perspective here: Why adidas is Better than Nike.