Nike’s ‘Just Do it’ slo­gan was in­spired by a con­victed killer’s last words

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The slo­gan was pitched by ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive Dan Wieden about three decades ago, who had stated that the words were in­spired by Utah killer Gary Gil­more, who was sen­tenced to death in 1977 for rob­bing and mur­der­ing two men. Nike’s iconic “Just Do It” slo­gan was de­scribed as one of the best taglines of the 20th cen­tury. Dan The con­demned man re­port­edly said, “let’s do this” as he faced a fir­ing squad. Dan de­cided to sug­gest a slightly al­tered ver­sion as the slo­gan, which first ap­peared in a Nike ad­vert in the same year fea­tur­ing 80-year-old run­ner Walt Stack.

In­ter­est­ingly, ini­tially Nike hated the idea, but then he won them around with the slo­gan suc­cess­fully de­but­ing in that TV ad. It marked a new era for the brand. The ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive be­hind nike’s “Just do it” slo­gan had told Dezeen how he based one of the world’s most rec­og­niz­able taglines on the words of a con­vict fac­ing a fir­ing squad (+ in­ter­view). “I was re­call­ing a man in Portland,” Wieden told Dozen, re­mem­ber­ing how in 1988 he was strug­gling to come up with a line that would tie to­gether a num­ber of dif­fer­ent TV com­mer­cials the fledg­ling agency had cre­ated for the sports­wear brand.

“He grew up in Portland, and ran around do­ing crim­i­nal acts in the coun­try, and was in Utah where he mur­dered a man and a woman, and was sent to jail and put be­fore a fir­ing squad.” Wieden con­tin­ued: “They asked him if he had any fi­nal thoughts and he said: ‘Let’s do it’. I didn’t like ‘Let’s do it’ so I just changed it to ‘Just do it’.” Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who was skep­ti­cal about the need for ad­ver­tis­ing, ini­tially re­jected the idea. “Phil Knight said, ‘ We don’t need that shit’,” Wieden said. “I said ‘Just trust me on this one.’ So they trusted me and it went big pretty quickly.” The slo­gan, to­gether with Nike’s “Swoosh” logo, helped pro­pel the sports­wear brand into a global giant, over­tak­ing then-ri­val Ree­bok, and is still in use al­most three decades af­ter it was coined. Like all great taglines, it was both sim­ple and mem­o­rable. It also sug­gested some­thing more than its lit­eral mean­ing, al­low­ing peo­ple to in­ter­pret it as they wished and, in do­ing so; es­tab­lish a per­sonal con­nec­tion with the brand. Source: Dezeen.com

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