June 7, 2023

By Published On: June 7, 2023Categories: Companies We LoveViews: 155

If you’re a fan of athletic footwear, then you’ve probably heard of Nike and Onitsuka. These two brands have a complicated history, filled with drama, competition, and even accusations of design theft!

Nike VS Onitsuka – The Romance Affair

It all started in the 1960s, when Phil Knight, a young athlete and business student, went on a study abroad program to Japan. There, he discovered the innovative and high-quality Onitsuka Tiger shoes, and decided to bring them back to the US. So, he founded Blue Ribbon Sports, a company that distributed Onitsuka Tiger shoes across America.

Blue Ribbon Selling Onitsuka Tiger Shoe Ads (Source: The Olympian)

The Couple Quarrel

At first, everything was peachy keen between the two companies. Onitsuka was happy to have a distributor who knew the American market, while Blue Ribbon Sports was happy to sell such amazing shoes. However, as Blue Ribbon Sports grew and opened its own retail stores, which sold Onitsuka shoes alongside other athletic apparel, the relationship turned sour. Onitsuka felt like Blue Ribbon Sports was stealing their customers. In the 1970s, Onitsuka tried to undermine Nike’s business. Onitsuka diverted shipments of their shoes to other companies and they abruptly ended their partnership in 1971. These actions caused major setbacks for Nike, and the company was struggling to stay afloat.

The Break Up and Cat Fight

But Phil Knight wasn’t about to let that stop him. Instead, he started his own line of shoes under the Nike brand. They even hired a former Onitsuka employee, Shoji Kitami, to help with the design and production of their shoes. Nike’s first line of shoes, including the Nike Cortez and the Waffle Trainer, were heavily influenced by Onitsuka’s designs. Onitsuka was furious, accusing Knight of stealing their designs and trade secrets. The competition between the two companies only grew more intense, with both vying for dominance in the athletic footwear market.

Nike Cortez and Onitsuka Tiger Corsair (Source: The Olympian)

The Rise of Nike

Nike, which is named after the Greek goddess of victory introduced its own innovations, such as the Air technology that provided cushioning and support. These innovations, along with Nike’s iconic branding and marketing campaigns, helped the company turn their fortunes around.

One of the most significant moments in Nike’s history was their partnership with basketball legend Michael Jordan in the 1980s and 1990s. The Air Jordan line of shoes, which was launched in 1984, became an instant sensation and helped establish Nike as a cultural icon.

The Air Jordan line wasn’t just successful because of Jordan’s on-court performance, but also because of Nike’s innovative design and marketing. The shoes were unlike anything else on the market at the time, with their bold colors and unique design features. Nike’s marketing campaigns for the Air Jordan line were also groundbreaking, with their “Be Like Mike” commercials and other iconic ads.

Nike VS Onitsuka Today

Nike and Onitsuka (now known as Asics) have had different paths. Today, Nike is one of the most successful and recognizable brands in the world. The company’s commitment to innovation and sustainability has kept it at the forefront of the athletic footwear industry.

As of today, 6 April 2023, Nike’s ($NYSE:NKE) market capitalization is close to $200 billion, with reported revenues of $46.7 billion and a net profit of $4.2 billion in fiscal year 2022. On the other hand, Asics ($TSE:7936) has a market capitalization of around $5 billion as of 2021. While the company has enjoyed success in the Japanese market, it has struggled to maintain a strong presence in other regions. In fiscal year 2020, Asics reported revenues of $5.3 billion and a net profit of $0.13 billion. (Data Source: GoodWhale)

Looking to the future, Nike’s growth plan includes a focus on technology and digital innovation. The company has invested heavily in digital platforms. They develop new products that integrate technology, such as their Nike Adapt self-lacing shoes. Nike also plans to expand its direct-to-consumer sales channels and continue its commitment to sustainability and social responsibility.


In conclusion, Nike VS Onitsuka rivalry is a fascinating and complicated one. Despite the bad blood and intense competition between the two companies, they have both left their mark on the world of athletic footwear. Nike’s resilience in the face of Onitsuka and their commitment to innovation and marketing has helped establish them as one of the most successful and recognizable brands in the world.