Whether it's pacing the sidelines at a football game, throwing candy to the Pit Crew at a basketball game, or lecturing to sports marketing students, Phil Knight '59 is an inspiration to just about everyone at the University of Oregon. His involvement is fueled by a rare, unrelenting love for his alma mater and for sports. That same unrelenting, focused energy built Nike into the most recognized brand in the world.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Knight came to UO to run for one of the most prestigious track programs in the country and to be coached by the legendary Bill Bowerman. By the time he graduated in 1959 (he earned a degree in business administration with a major in accounting), Knight understood the importance of innovation, not just in product design but also in marketing.
He was well aware of Bowerman's attempts to create a better running shoe, and Knight possessed the drive and enthusiasm to bring those concepts to reality. After obtaining his M.B.A. from Stanford University in 1962, Knight returned to Eugene to found Blue Ribbon Sports, Inc. with Bowerman. Knight soon began selling shoes at track meets out of the back of his Plymouth Valiant station wagon, eventually making enough money to quit his job as an accountant.
By 1972, Blue Ribbon Sports was renamed Nike, Inc., after the Greek goddess of victory. Under Knight's leadership, Nike became synonymous with excellence. Thanks to a constant pursuit of innovation and ingenious marketing and advertising, Nike quickly transformed sports, pioneered the field of sports marketing, revolutionized corporate business practices, and implemented innovative product distribution systems.
Phil Knight has not only changed the face of marketing and how we think about business, but he has done so with an enthusiasm and dedication that inspires us all to achieve greatness and realize the potential of ourselves and our businesses.
Having retired from the CEO position at Nike in November 2004, Knight continues to serves as the company's chairman. But he has always been much more than a corporate executive. Knight is the father of sports marketing, an industry he almost single-handedly created. He is a visionary and a leader. And he embodies everything that is Nike--excellence, integrity, and passion.