By Mary Gajda
Nike has been a brand I’ve followed most of my life. I began working at a very young age in the early 1980s washing trays at a bakery, and I remember saving up for my very first pair of Nike running shoes. I’d never owned anything other than the generic brand of ultra-cheap tennis shoes, but I had developed an interest in running and just knew those light-blue Nike Roadrunners were going to be a game changer.
They were, at least emotionally. I finally felt like a true athlete with my sweet new kicks. I entered races all over mid-Michigan, including the 5-mile St. Patrick’s Day run in Bay City as well as others — and I did fairly well for my age. But the best part was I paid for them with my own hard-earned own money. That set into motion lessons about saving and understanding wants versus needs.
I was so proud to own those shoes … of what they stood for … and how they made me feel.
Nike has made a few mistakes through the decades. Then again, so have I. Together, we have become less naïve and have learned to become allies, standing up against racism and bigotry. We’ve learned about social responsibility. And we’ve learned that anyone can do anything. Especially women.
That’s what I like about Nike. The company stays on brand; and when it falters, it owns it. It evolves with the times yet remains constant in its message: Just do it.
The messages Nike sends inspire inclusivity and acceptance, and it makes the wearer look fierce, confident and empowered … just like I felt in those Roadrunners in 1981.
I’m attracted to brands to speak to me as if they know my essence, my very soul. They know what I worry about and what I wish for. It’s easier now with good marketing tools. Back then, it felt more like magic.
Brands come and go, but it’s those that help shape our personal stories that resonate with me most.
Nike is part of my story.