In the spring of 1971, Phil Knight realized that long-term success for Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS), the footwear importing company he co-founded with Bill Bowerman in 1964, would be better served by owning and marketing its own brand. Armed with a graphic logo designed for $35 by Carolyn Davidson, a Portland State University student, and its first shoe - a football (soccer) cleat - the newly formed company needed a name. After suggesting Dimension Six, a name that was unpopular with the company's 45 employees, Phil Knight charged them with coming up with a name quickly as footwear was already being manufactured and the boxes needed a name to be able to ship out to retailers. (Note: As Nike later became more successful, Ms. Davidson received additional compensation for her design.)

As the legend goes, that same night, Jeff Johnson, who was BRS' first full-time employee and enjoyed Greek mythology, woke up with 'Nike' - the winged goddess of victory - on his mind. Validated by a magazine article that discussed how many of the most successful brand names utilized two syllables and featured an "exotic" letter or sound, like K, X, Z or Q, and the name was set. According to the U.S. Patent Office, the first use of the Nike name and the Swoosh design trademark in commerce took place on June 18, 1971. The first full line of Nike footwear was released in 1972.

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