The 10 Strange but Effective Founding Principles of Nike

As featured (but not fully explained) in the new movie Air

Travis W. King


When I first typed these 10 founding principles below before adding my commentary, the page lit up with red lines like a middle school kid’s unedited term paper.

Despite Phil Knight’s misuse of the English language and questionable grammar, these 10 founding principles of Nike have gone down in business school and sports history. These ten ideas have been discussed in business classes and copied or referenced by CEOs for decades.

Photo by wu yi on Unsplash

Nike’s founding principles are back in the spotlight after being featured in the new movie Air, about the launch of the Air Jordan sneakers brand and Nike signing Michael Jordan to a landmark shoe deal as a rookie before he ever stepped on an NBA court.

These 10 principles are referenced numerous times throughout the film. In certain scenes, a given principle is zoomed in on to make a point about what just happened. It’s compelling filmmaking.

However, as soon as the movie finished I found myself thinking “Well, what are all ten? Do they all make sense? Do they all hold up?” That curiosity led me to write this article.

Below, you’ll find all 10 principles flushed out with a bit of color commentary.

Public domain.

1. Our business is change.

I’m not exactly sure what Phil meant by this one, but I assume it’s something about changing the sneaker industry. About not being afraid to do things differently.

2. We’re on offense. All the time.

Reading all of these together, it seems like Phil might have taken out a legal pad and pen after his third tumbler of whiskey one night in the late 70s. We’re on offense, which means… I dunno, we’re selling shoes aggressively? We’re not defending ourselves from other shoe company attacks?

I guess, drunk Phil.

3. Perfect results count — not a…



Travis W. King

Traveling, writing, & working abroad for 10 years. Former Remote Year Dir. of Community. Check out my travel memoir—Not That Anyone Asked—at