Just Do It
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The most powerful force in sports is not a football or baseball team. It is a shoe company. Nike is radically changing the way sports, business and popular culture interact.
Donald Katz is an award-winning author with a genius for getting inside places other journalists can't, and for writing nonfiction with the sweep and drama of a great novel. In his acclaimed bestseller, The Big Store, Katz gained unprecedented access to Sears, America's retail giant of the past. Now, in Just Do It, Katz has penetrated the company of the future, a dream machine that seeks nothing less than to define culture through the power of sports.
The protagonist of Just Do It is Phil Knight, a reclusive billionaire who started a two-man operation importing Japanese running shoes and built it into a $4 billion company. Irreverent, unpredictable and leery of the sports establishment, Knight has created the most muscular jock culture in business, a place where employees routinely take two hours at lunch to work out and then strategize late into the night in their holy war against competitors Reebok and Adidas. Outsiders think Nike is a cult. Insiders believe they are furthering the company's mission: to improve the performance of serious athletes.
Not everyone can be a Nike guy. It requires a certain attitude. For example: Michael Jordan refusing to wear Reebok at the 1992 Olympics, or Charles Barkley joking about becoming a porn star. Katz shows how Nike created the spectacular imagery and marketing campaigns that made Jordan, Barkley and Bo Jackson international icons. He also documents Nike's increasingly influential role in the management of its high-priced talent, taking us inside lucrative endorsement deals involving Jim Courier, Andre Agassi, Deion Sanders, Alonzo Mourning and Pete Sampras, as well as behind-closed-doors negotiations with the NBA and the NCAA as it considers a controversial plan for a collegiate Super Bowl brokered by Nike and superagent Michael Ovitz.
Nike is the company of the future because it understands the power of imagery and knows how to market those images all over the world. A truly global corporation, Nike relies on capital from Japan to manufacture shoes in Asia that are sold to one out of every four athletic-shoe buyers in Europe. Katz follows Nike all over the world, from a nineteen-year-old Korean gluing shoes in a factory to an advertising wunderkind in Oregon creating the legendary "Bo Knows" campaign to the fanatical Nike kids who rush into stores the day new shoes hit the street. To today's youth, a pair of Air Jordans possess the same status as a sleek red convertible did to a previous generation.
Along the way, Katz describes the creation and design of Nike shoes, revealing technology worthy of a James Bond movie. He examines the charges leveled against Nike: that the company is exploiting Asian peasants, corrupting younger athletes and recklessly stirring consumer fever in urban America. He also discusses the corporate spirit and strategies that have made Nike one of the great business stories of the past two decades.
Just Do It is about the business of sports and the sport of business. It is also the story of a culture in which the sight of an athlete in flight can still evoke awe.