Two avid runners from the University of Oregon put together Nike (NYSE: NKE) over 40 years ago, creating lightweight rubber insoles using a waffle iron and selling shoes out of the trunk of a car at track meets. There is perhaps no brand name more closely tied to American sports than this company and its iconic marketing phrase: “Just Do It.”
Spokespeople who have worn the Nike “swoosh” include Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong and other superstar athletes. Though most famously an athletic shoe company, Nike sells more than $19 billion worth of apparel, soccer balls, golf clubs and other gear around the world.
Nike makes its home in Beaverton, Ore., just outside Portland – though after a tax jurisdiction dispute a few years ago, the precise location could still be a sore spot for some. The global franchise employs some 30,000 people on six continents, with 7,000 of those working at Nike World Headquarters in Oregon. A fair number of tourists show up to tour the sports memorabilia there and view the gardens on the corporate campus.
Nike is now a global ambassador of American sports – and the business of sports. Nike operates in more than 160 countries around the globe. The company claims that, including its suppliers and retailers, it is responsible for nearly 1 million jobs worldwide.
Nike has “sold” sports in a uniquely American way. Its “Just Do It” tagline was named one of the five best slogans of the 20th century by respected marketing publication Advertising Age. Nike’s lineup of celebrity endorsements and its marriage of athletic function and American style make the brand a representative of U.S. business practices at their best.
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Jeff Reeves is editor of InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here. Follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.