Nike's first full-time employee had a dream hours before it filed a patent in 1971, and it saved the company from being called 'Dimension Six'


Nike almost had a very different name.

Phil Knight founded the company as Blue Ribbon Sports. Just one of many companies that originally had different names, Knight’s was facing a rebrand after splitting with its longtime partner, the Japanese shoemaker Onitsuka.

Knight described the incident in his 2016 memoir, “Shoe Dog.” The team had spent weeks pitching names, and Knight preferred one that he said his employees had told him was “unspeakably bad”: Dimension Six.

In 1971, on the morning the patent was due, Knight’s coworker Jeff Johnson submitted a final suggestion that he said had come to him in a dream: Nike.

Read more: These are the stories behind 24 of the most popular brand names

In the end, it came down to three options: Nike, Falcon, or Dimension Six.

“Johnson had pointed out that seemingly all iconic brands – Clorox, Kleenex, Xerox – have short names,” Knight wrote. “Two syllables or less. And they always have a strong sound in the name, a letter like ‘K’ or ‘X,’ that sticks in the mind. That all made sense. And that all described Nike.”

“Maybe it will grow on us,” Knight recalled being told of the new name.

In his memoir, Knight described Johnson as “Full-time Employee Number One.” The company’s first salesman, Johnson also opened the first storefront in California and later manned operations on the East Coast. Johnson worked for Nike for 18 years.

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