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How Nike became one of the coolest and most valuable brands in the world

1973: Nike signs its first athlete to an endorsement deal

1973: Nike signs its first athlete to an endorsement deal

Drake Baer / Tech Insider

Steve Prefontaine, a 22-year-old known as “Pre,” as he came to be known, was an elite runner.

He set his first national record at age 15 by running two miles in 8:41:5. He held an American record in every long-distance event, from 2,000 meters to 10,000 meters, before his tragic death in a car accident at 24 years old.

Pre signed his deal with Nike in 1974 for $5,000. The Nike brand was just three years old.

With his flowing hair, punk rock attitude, and unprecedented success, Pre helped brand Nike as swaggering, dominant, and committed to athletic excellence.

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