UW-L Journal of Undergraduate Research XVI (2013)
How Nike’s Leadership Affects Brand Image Internally and
James Elmer Neiderhauser
Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Elizabeth Crosby, Marketing
The nature of this project is to determine how the leadership within Nike, specifically Phil Knight, affects the brand image both from an internal company focused perspective as well as from an external viewpoint of the consumers and the media. I am curious to see how leadership and brand image are connected. As well as to what extent leadership improves brand image and perception in the minds of Nike members as well as customers. The focus will be on evaluating the leadership of Phil Knight, to see how that directly impacts Nike’s brand image. The analysis will be done looking inward on other members within the Nike work culture, as well as outward on customers, media, and members of the community. Through studying Nike using brand image and leadership as the areas of focus, useful insight as to how these two are connected will be made to improve companies’ brands.
Key words: branding, leadership, organizational communication, media, buyer behavior
Phil Knight was one of the cofounders of Nike and served as CEO until recently. It was through his leadership and his vision that he was able to build one of the biggest names in sports. The brand itself is worth over ten billion dollars, which makes it the most valuable name in the sporting world today. Not only that, Nike has built an incredible culture both from the inside aspect of a company to a culture wide Nike movement. Through Phil’s strategic leadership in Oregon he was able to build a company that not only was successful but a company that is always on the cutting edge of innovation and advertising. It is obvious that Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman, both cofounders of Nike, have had a tremendous impact on leading this company down a successful road. However, the extent to which these leaders impacted brand image inwardly and outwardly is yet to be determined. This study will be valuable for not only Nike but also for other corporations to see how the leadership of key individuals affects the perception of the brand from both a company and consumer viewpoint. This will play a role in determining what kind of leader is best suited for a company if improved brand image is desired as well as, how communication of the leader within a company such as Nike affects the brand image. DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN HOW NIKE’S BRAND IMAGE IS PERCIEVED INTERNALLY AND EXTERNALLY
The way that the Nike brand is perceived from within the Nike organization is based on alleged factors such as identity, work culture, organizational communication, and if the members understand the brand. In the book Just Do It: The Nike Spirit in the Corporate World by Donald Katz discussion regarding how Nike came about and the past decisions that led Nike to the top of the sports world were explained and studied. Internally
Identity. Katz often mentions in his time spent with Phil Knight, that Knight has a great sense of identity, association, and ownership with the brand itself (Katz 1994). Not only that, but also organizational members, workers, and players sponsored by Nike felt a great sense of identity with the brand. What makes organizational members with Nike unique is that Nike has managed to capture the true essence of athletics and extends the idea of being on a team into that of being a member of the Nike team. It is an innate desire to want to be a part of something grand, something impactful and exciting. For most, the concept of a team is stripped from their vocabulary upon leaving high school or college sports. At Nike, members highly identify with that and desire that sense of belonging; their attitudes gravitate toward it and they buy into the concept and reality of that. On top of it all, Nike is a winning
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