$16.95 couldn’t buy you much, nowadays. However, back in 1971, it would’ve meant you could’ve owned the first pair of Nike football boots ever to be released; a proper piece of football history.
Not that you’d want a pair; as the cliche goes, the boots couldn’t hack a cold, wet night in Stoke – a bit like Lionel Messi – and Nike shelved the plans quicker than Manchester United fans pretended Paul Pogba’s performance against Liverpool didn’t happen.
Next attempt at breaking the market involved Portland Timbers, who were playing in a four-team National Conference, Western division – football was a bit different back then, the Timbers finished the season in second-place, with 167 points from 20 wins?.
Although they didn’t finish top, the American soccer outfit looked the part, with Nike kitting them out – that included West Ham’s iconic striker, Clyde Best.
Flashback Friday: 1978 Portland Timbers Home Jersey. The first ever Nike professional club football kit. #nike pic.twitter.com/trGjDksq2v
— Football Fashion (@footballfashion) June 6, 2014
A big year for Nike; Aston Villa won the European Cup, with every single player wearing Nike boots – have to assume Dion Dublin was there. And Ian Rush’s iconic facial hair is signed up as Nike’s first sponsored footballer.
If anyone could make that face and moustache appealing, Nike could.
Ian Rush & Nike. pic.twitter.com/0divuk5LJp
— Olympia (@olympia_vintage) September 6, 2015
The Premier League was in its debut season. But Nike maintained their focus in the American market. Mia Hamm, who would go on to become the USA’s greatest goalscorer of all-time – Abby Wambach has now surpassed Hamm – became Nike’s first female footballer.
#MondayMotivation from @MiaHamm. Tell us what you want by using #WhatWomenWant20 or visiting https://t.co/JLzFlk9S8c pic.twitter.com/9y4dCFSJhy
— What Women Want 2.0 (@WhatWomenWantXX) January 16, 2017
If they hadn’t already, Nike well and truly arrived a year before the World Cup in France, as they partnered up with *the* football team, the Samba stars of Brazil.
“We will only truly understand football when we see the game through the eyes of Brasilians.”
From here on in, Nike becomes everything it set out to achieve, back in 1978, when it designed boots that weren’t fit for purpose.
England’s biggest club. Probably only second to Real Madrid on a global scale. Nike locked Manchester United down to kit deal that, at the time, was unprecedented; £100million.
The partnership would last 13 years, but it’s Nike’s debut Red Devils kits that regularly takes top spot in United’s greatest kits of all-time.
YouTube’s first million-hit video had just been uploaded. Haters will say it wasn’t real.
Since 2005, the Nike build-up has erupted. It’s no longer marketing ploys to get noticed, to get itself a slice of the football ‘pie’; it is the pie.
Nike is the brand associated with the beautiful game; no longer the odd superstar, but a list of players from all over the world, all of the game’s top leagues – you’ll rarely find a top level footballer without ‘Nike Athlete’ in their Twitter bio. But if you do, it’s because Nike didn’t want them.
Manchester United may no longer be associated with Nike. But 39 international FIFA recognised countries are. 227 club teams, from the world’s current best side, Barcelona, all the way to Riffa S.C in Bahrain.
Nike’s reach, appeal and association with football is so huge, it’s downplaying it when you call say it’s global.
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