Nike’s mission is to inspire athletes everywhere to reach their full potential. Phil Knight inspired this belief from the very beginning. In the early days, he started by selling shoes out of the back of a Plymouth Valliant at track meets in Oregon and Washington; he launched the first line of Nike shoes in 1972.
He has come a long way from those humble beginnings. Now NIKE, Inc. is the world's leading designer, marketer and distributor of authentic athletic footwear, apparel, equipment and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities. The company has more than 44,000 employees around the world and more than $24 billion in revenue.
Whether it’s inspiring someone to break a world record or encouraging a generation to take action and Just Do It, Knight has always used his platform in sport to stir debate and take stands on issues that matter. His willingness to give voice to millions everywhere and shatter stereotypes has forever altered the landscape of advertising. Whether it was an issue of race, discrimination, gender, global poverty or simply challenging the status quo, Knight always faced these issues head-on with bold action.
For example, Knight was one of the first to embrace African-Americans as inspirational figures for youth. Michael Jordan became “His Airness” to aspiring ballers everywhere. These images were some of the first to portray African-American athletes as heroes rather than just pitchmen.
Over the years, Knight has also received a number of other special honors and achievements including induction in to The University of Oregon’s Hall of Fame, The Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, The Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame, and The World Retail Hall of Fame.
Beyond his deep impact in advertising, Knight has also distinguished himself as a major contributor to philanthropic efforts in support of health and education. In 2008, he was named one of America’s Top 50 Givers by Businessweek Magazine. He has generously donated millions to the University of Oregon and to Stanford Business School; Knight is an alumni of both schools. He gave $100 million dollars to the Portland-based Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) to establish the Knight Cancer Institute and also donated $125 million to create the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute along with his wife Penny Knight.
Knight has also explored other opportunities in business, including one of his passions: movies. He is the owner of Portland-based Laika, an animation studio. Laika released its first major film, “Coraline”, in 2009 and the film received an Academy Award nomination. The studio’s latest production, “ParaNorman”, was also nominated for an Oscar for best animated film.
“There is no finish line”, is a statement that is often heard at Nike. This philosophy of a relentless focus on progress and innovation is one that Knight invented and continues to live by today. Never one to slow down, Knight continues to have his finger on the pulse of sports and leads NIKE, Inc. as the Chairman of the Board of Directors.
He and his wife, Penny Knight, live in Oregon.