Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios
Today, Nike works with many world-class athletes like Serena Williams, Mia Hamm, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. At the headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, the Nike Sports Research Lab often hosts elite athletes to test new products. "They're very demanding. They want lighter, better, faster shoes and lighter, better, faster clothes ," Phil says. "Meeting sports athletes that are the best in the world is a thrill to this day. That never changes. I was that way when I was 12, and I'm that way now."
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Phil says there are definitely days when he marvels at what Nike has become over the years. "We knew the industry would get bigger. We had no idea ... we would compete as successfully as we have. It was all a labor of love in the early days and really to this day," he says. "It's a fabulous industry, and the people who work out there, they love being in it. I mean, it's sports, it's fitness, it's international."
One of Nike's most famous partnerships is with global inspiration and sports icon Michael Jordan. The company signed the basketball player in 1984, before he had even stepped on the court for the Chicago Bulls. "He was a great player, he was handsome, he was articulate, he was educated and he was perfect," Phil says."He was sent from central casting, and we jumped on it right away."
Through the years, Michael Jordan has become a brand within the brand. Nike sells about double the Jordan product today compared to what they did when he was playing at the peak of his career, Phil says. "It's become more than just the man," he says. "It stands for something by itself."