The Definitive History of Nike in Football

The Definitive History of Nike in Football

Nike began its football journey back in 1971 with the release of The Nike football boot, the first shoe to bear the Swoosh.But it was a start.

Nike football boot

"The Nike" football boot debuts in 1971 as the first shoe to bear the Swoosh. Over decades, Nike learned from athletes, research and testing how to create football products that defy expectations and help players around the world raise their game. These are the pivotal moments in Nikes history that helped shape a new era of brilliant football.


Nike kicks off football the same way Phil Knight built a running business: in the companys backyard, working closely with athletes. Nikes original football division signs the Portland professional team to an equipment deal (the jersey shown here is from the 1979 season). Within two years, Nike signs contracts with 10 regional associations and nearly 40 players.

1978 Portland Timbers jersey

1978 Portland Timbers jersey.


Aston Villa clinches Europes top club prize with all Villa players wearing Nike boots. Nike signs legendary goal-scorer Ian Rush as the first star Nike Football athlete, and Sunderland F.C. becomes first team in Europe to wear a Nike kit. The same year in Spain, Steve Archibald becomes the first player in Nike boots to score a goal in footballs biggest tournament.

Legendary goal-scorer Ian Rush

Legendary goal-scorer Ian Rush.


Former University of North Carolina phenomenon Mia Hamm becomes NIke's first signed woman football player and one of the first in the U.S. with a paid sports endorsement deal. Hamm goes on to set the record for most international goals scored, regardless of gender, which she held until Nike athlete Abby Wambach broke it in 2013.

U.S. Women's Soccer original phenom, Mia Hamm

U.S. Women's Soccer original phenom, Mia Hamm.


In the final in California, eight of Brasils 22 players wear Nike Tiempo Premier boots. Brasil is crowned champions for a fourth time following a penalty shoot out. Two days after the final, NIKE, Inc. Chairman and Co-founder Phil Knight openly sets his sights on sponsoring the Brasil national team.

Nike Tiempo Premier boots

Nike Tiempo Premier boots with removable studs.

Nike signs a contract as uniform and apparel sponsor for the U.S. Soccer Federation mens and womens national teams. In 2013, Nike extends the deal through 2022. The partnership reinforces Nikes leadership in football, as we continue to deliver game-changing innovations on the pitch and share the same vision to further grow the sport as a whole in the U.S., said Nike Brand President Trevor Edwards.


Nike makes its commitment to the worlds most popular sport undeniable by signing the CBF the Brasilian Football federation making good on Phil Knights belief that We will only truly understand football when we see the game through the eyes of Brasilians.

Nike invests in boot quality and establishes a football boot factory in ancient cobbling capital Montebelluna, Italy, leading to the 1997 Air GX. The Montebelluna facility remains key for development and testing and for all big boot projects, including this years Magista Obra and Mercurial Superfly. 1996: The U.S. womens national team wins gold in the first Olympic womens soccer final in Atlanta. Nigeria, signed by Nike in 1994, also takes the top spot on the podium.

The U.S. womens national team wins the first gold ever in the womens soccer final in Atlanta. Nigeria, signed by Nike in 1994, also takes the top spot on the podium.

The first Nike-designed jersey for CBF

The first Nike-designed jersey for CBF.

Members of the Brasilian national football team

Members of the Brasilian national football team.

The 1997 Air GX, created in Montebelluna, Italy

The 1997 Air GX, created in Montebelluna, Italy.


Nike wear-tests a premium boot made of new synthetic leather the first of its kind with players. The athletes like them so much, they refuse to hand them back. The following year in France, the new Mercurial boot debuts on Ronaldos feet on footballs biggest stage.

Ronaldos feet on footballs biggest stage

The original 1998 Mercurial boot, the first premier boot made from synthetic leather.


For the first time, Nike showcases a team instead of an individual in a major commercial the Brasil national team killing time and playing some sensational football in Airport. Directed by John Woo and shot in Rio de Janeiro airport, it built on the success of 1996s Good v. Evil and expressed Nikes philosophy of fast, freewheeling, creative and spontaneous football.

Brasil Airport

Brasil Airport.


The U.S. womens national team wins the games biggest prize 5-4 in a dramatic penalty kick shootout in California. Nike athlete Brandi Chastain memorably celebrates the winning goal in her sports bra, a prototype of Nikes Inneractives line of bras and underwear.

Brandi Chastain celebrates after firing in the winning goal

Brandi Chastain celebrates after firing in the winning goal.


Nike builds on the design philosophy of creating beautiful, athlete-informed apparel with body-mapping. The innovative approach leads to jerseys that meet the specific needs of footballers, with knit-in mesh panels for ventilation, thicker areas for warmth and a flexible, stretch-woven fabrication.


The year marks the start of a long-running relationship between Nike and Manchester United, the worlds best-known team. Nike becomes the team's offical supplier of kits and branded apparel beginning in 2002; the club regains the Premier League title at the close of the 2002-2003 season.

Nike's first jersey for Manchester United

Nike's frist jersey for Manchester United.


The Secret Tournament campaign is Nikes largest, most globally coordinated effort to date. The ad features 24 Nike stars, with events in 13 countries and presence in 52. On the pitch in Japan, Brasil claim their fifth trophy, with two goals in the final from Ronaldo, tying the Brasilian record of 12 career goals on footballs greatest stage. He goes on to break the Brasil record and the all-time tournament record in 2006.

The Secret Tournament

The Secret Tournament.


A snowstorm during an FA Cup match makes it impossible for linesman, commentators and 40,000 fans to see the white ball. Halfway through the game, an official replaces the sponsors ball with a blue-and-yellow Nike Total 90 Aerow Hi-Vis Premier League ball, the first of its kind. Nike now provides the match ball for the worlds top three leagues and the FA Cup.

Premier League ball

A three-minute video entitled Ronaldinho, A Touch of Gold pops up on the upstart website YouTube. Created to launch a new version of the Tiempo boot, it shows Brasilian star Ronaldinho firing a ball off a crossbar four times in a row without the ball hitting the ground. It was quickly shared around the world, becoming YouTubes first million-hit video. The era of viral video has arrived.


Nike goes digital with the Joga Bonito campaign. The new approach was a watershed moment in digital marketing at Nike, involving a partnership with Google to create a social networking site, a feed of content leading up to the tournament and promotion of extensive user-generated content

Joga Bonito logo for 2006 campaign

Joga Bonito logo for 2006 campaign.


Nike club F.C. Barcelona completes the first treble won by a Spanish side and goes on an astounding, multi-year win streak that includes back-to-back-to-back La Liga titles. The club is celebrated for its philosophy of team-over-individual and fearless, attacking style of play.

Nike club F.C. Barcelona


Initially launched on Facebook, the Write the Future campaign extends beyond the football pitch and becomes (at the time) the most-shared campaign on the internet, with the three-minute ad becoming the fastest-spreading video in Nike Football history. Nikes Elite Pack for South Africa is an instant classic, with four football boot styles colored in the same shades of Mach Violet and Total Orange. Based on the concept of visual acuity, the colors were proven to provide the best contrast to the green pitch to better enable team-mates to spot each other.

Nike's 2010 Elite Pack for South Africa

Nike's 2010 Elite Pack for South Africa.

For the first time, all nine of Nikes national football teamsincluding Portugal, Brasil, The Netherlands and the U.S. sport jerseys made entirely from recycled plastic water bottles diverted from landfills in Taiwan and Japan. Each jersey diverts eight water bottles from landfills. Since 2010, nearly two billion bottles enough to cover 3,500 football pitches have been salvaged and spun into recycled polyester products.



Designed for a new breed of attacker, the Hypervenom boot launches to help players create space quickly and get shots off from any angle. Nike gained insights from Neymar Jr. and Wayne Rooney to address the increased speed of the game. NIKESKIN innovation delivers a flexible mesh upper bound with a thin polyurethane film as close as it gets to the feel of playing barefoot.

Neymar shows off the Nike Hypervenom boot

Neymar shows off the Nike Hypervenom boot and new Brasil 3rd shirt. Rio de Janeiro, May 28th 2013.


Nike introduces groundbreaking mid-cut boots with Nike Flyknit uppers: the Magista and Mercurial Superfly. The designs respond to how the game is changing, with the Magista specifically created for playmakers, and the Mercurial Superfly to equip the quickest players to take advantage of every split second. New design innovations like Nike Flyknit technology provide a quantum leap forward in what boots can be and what they can help players achieve, said NIKE, Inc. President & CEO Mark Parker.