September 26, 2023

Nike is one of the most recognizable and successful brands in the world, thanks to its innovative products, inspiring athletes, and powerful marketing campaigns. But perhaps nothing has defined Nike more than its iconic slogan: Just Do It.

In this article, we will explore the origin, meaning, and impact of Nike’s Just Do It campaign, and how it helped Nike become a global leader in sports and culture.

The Origin of Just Do It

The Just Do It campaign was launched in 1988 by Nike’s advertising agency, Wieden+Kennedy (W+K), as a way to differentiate Nike from its competitors, especially Reebok, which was dominating the market with its aerobics-focused products and campaigns1.

The slogan was coined by Dan Wieden, the co-founder of W+K, who was inspired by the last words of Gary Gilmore, a convicted murderer who was executed by firing squad in Utah in 1977. Gilmore’s final words were: “Let’s do it.”

Wieden modified the phrase to “Just Do It”, and pitched it to Nike as a simple yet powerful call to action that could resonate with anyone who wanted to overcome their fears, doubts, or challenges and pursue their goals.

The Meaning of Just Do It

The Just Do It campaign featured professional and amateur athletes from various sports and backgrounds, sharing their stories of achievement, passion, and perseverance. Some of the most memorable ads included:

  • Walt Stack, an 80-year-old marathon runner who ran 17 miles every morning
  • Michael Jordan, the basketball legend who overcame countless obstacles and failures to become the greatest of all time
  • Bo Jackson, the multi-sport star who excelled in both baseball and football
  • Spike Lee, the filmmaker and basketball fan who interviewed Jordan as his alter ego Mars Blackmon
  • Charles Barkley, the controversial basketball player who declared that he was not a role model
  • Terry Fox, the Canadian hero who ran across Canada with a prosthetic leg to raise money for cancer research
  • Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who protested against racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem

The meaning of Just Do It was both universal and intensely personal. It was a message of empowerment, motivation, and courage that appealed to anyone who wanted to improve themselves or their lives. It was also a reflection of Nike’s brand values and purpose: to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.

The Impact of Just Do It

The Just Do It campaign was a huge success for Nike, both commercially and culturally. It helped Nike increase its market share from 18% to 43% in just 10 years. It also elevated Nike’s brand image and awareness to new heights, making it synonymous with sports excellence and cultural relevance.

The slogan became a part of popular culture, inspiring countless parodies, references, memes, and variations. It also became a source of personal inspiration for many people who shared their stories of how they “just did it”, whether it was quitting a bad job, starting a new hobby, or making a positive change.

The Just Do It campaign also established a long-lasting partnership between Nike and W+K, which continues to produce some of the most creative and influential ads in the industry. Wieden himself described the slogan as “the best piece of work we ever did”.

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Nike’s Just Do It campaign is one of the most iconic and successful marketing campaigns of all time. It created a simple yet powerful slogan that captured the essence of Nike’s brand and connected with millions of people around the world. It also changed the game of advertising by creating emotional stories that transcended sports and culture.

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