For her latest book review, our Client Success Manager, Kendra Furey, takes a look at ‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight – Founder of Nike.

"Perfect Business Story!"

Entrepreneurs or anyone in business – even if you don’t work in the business sector but are interested in sportswear (or maybe the history of shoes) – this is a great read and memoir.

The main characters in the book, including Phil Knight, are not shown as superhuman with exceptional qualities, but average people with an exceptional ability to preserve and push the boundaries to achieve real success. It is a story that we (as individuals) can identify with – and one that we can draw courage from when the going gets tough. So, give it a read – it will definitely inspire you!

About Phil Knight

Phil Knight is one of the world’s most influential business executives – and the founder of Nike Inc.  He is also the author of Shoe Dog.  He served as CEO of the company from 1964 to 2004 and continues as board chairman to this day.

Shoe Dog By Phil Knight Book Review

Outline of the book

Shoe Dog, a modern-day business story/tail (see what I did there?).

Phil Knight takes us on Nike’s journey – from the moment he left business school and travelled the world (which is when he discovered Japanese running shoes – the lightbulb moment for Nike!) to his return to Oregon and his borrowing $50 from his (apprehensive) father to launch Nike. We then join him on his troubling first couple of years, balancing finances and business relationships whilst also raising a young family.  Then to the present day and the phenomenal success, with annual sales topping $30 billion – but it is more than just a company, Nike is a community.

You may believe some people and companies are just lucky, but as Phil highlights “the harder you work, the better your Tao” which refers to luck – in essence, it is important to push boundaries and never give up (despite any difficulties you encounter along the way).  Instead, Phil believes you can simply choose to change your route – this is not giving up because you haven’t actually stopped!

Key points

Long Lasting Relationships

One of the key themes within this memoir is the importance of connections and long-lasting partnerships (these often stem from friendships). But he also stresses the importance of a ‘team’.  Phil references his former track coach (Bill Bowerman) and his first employees – all of whom quickly became a band of swoosh-crazed brothers.

Together, harnessing the electrifying power of a bold vision and a shared belief in the redemptive, transformative power of sports, they created a brand, and a culture, that changed everything.

Also, it was a colleague of Phil’s who suggested the name ‘Nike’ when rebranding from Blue Ribbon (Nike’s former brand name). Whilst Phil was apprehensive of the name, he acknowledged and appreciated the fact it referred to the Greek Goddess of Victory, which of course was appropriate.  At this time, the brand was performing phenomenally, with countless endorsements from sports stars. Phil took a chance and believed in his colleague; the same storyline applied to the Swoosh – now recognised in every corner of the globe!

It Is Never Smooth Sailing

In his book, Phil does not shy away from the difficult times and is very transparent – not only about the early days of his business journey, but also the negative press which the company faced in more recent years. For example, Nike received relentless negative press about the so-called sweatshop controversy.  Whilst the company reacted emotionally, there was the acknowledgement that they must do better – something Phil did not want to shy away from.

Thus, despite these difficulties, it led to some positive changes.  The ‘Girl Effect’, founded by the Nike Foundation in 2004, was a concerted effort to break generational cycles of poverty whilst building stronger communities across the globe.

Nike in 2021!

‘Community’ is a predominant foundation of the Nike brand.  This was not only illustrated in Phil’s memoir, but also in their response to COVID-19 – Nike is donating over $15 million to COVID-19 response efforts.   Phil has also made a total of $10 million in personal donations to organisations within Oregon – the home of Nike.

Nike also released a statement “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the world.

Additionally, through their activity-tracking smartphone apps (Nike Training Club and Nike Run Club), countless people have shared their stats across social media, all of which are promoted on their social media platforms – a key activity which has brought people together in such an uncertain time.  Nike has been a shining example of quick, yet appropriate, brand activity.

Prior to the pandemic, Nike was extremely good at bringing people together and building communities outside of the brand e.g. “Sneaker Heads” through extensive collaborations such as Dior x Jordan.  They have also created limited product drops and dead stock – the trainer community is huge and Nike had an extensive role in the formulation of this key consumer group.

The opportunities are endless for Nike.  Perhaps now more than ever, I personally see new collaborations launching almost daily within the trainer/sneaker sector – though there is debate as to whether this is appropriate, or simply feeding conspicuous consumption and consumerism. However, I question whether things will change following COVID-19, along with consumer behaviour habits, and the causal impact this will have on the industry.


I would definitely recommend this book, it is ideal for those interested in business, globalization and the apparel industry (both fashion and sports!).

This book will definitely change your perspective and outlook, for the better!

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