Watched any sports in the past couple decades? If so, you’ve had Nike (NYSE:NKE) and its trademark swoosh grace your eyes.
Nike was created almost 50 years ago by two runners from the University of Oregon. The pair created lightweight rubber insoles using a waffle iron and sold shoes out of the trunk of a car at track meets. But their hard work paid off, turning a ragtag operation into one of the premier sports apparel empires in 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 nearly 40,000 people on six continents — more than 7,000 of those work at Nike World Headquarters in Oregon, where tourists visit to view the sports memorabilia and gardens on the corporate campus.
Some of the greatest athletes in just about every sport have donned Nike’s garb, including Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong, and the company also helps equip a number of international squads across several sports. And starting in the 2012 season, every player in the NFL will be clad in new Nike unis. Between official partnerships and retail sales of shoes, clubs, clothing and more, Nike’s worldwide operations bring in almost $21 billion in annual revenues.
While Nike is a global ambassador of American sports — Nike operates in more than 170 countries around the world and says that, including supplier and retailers, it is responsible for about 1 million jobs worldwide — it remains the face of Oregon through the University of Oregon Ducks. In addition to its other relationship with Oregon athletics, Nike has been outfitting the Ducks football team since 1995, with its wide array of flamboyant uniforms garnering national attention in recent years.
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