“Just Do It” Celebrates 25 Years

“Just Do It,” one of the most inspirational brand statements of all time, celebrates its 25th anniversary this month. Nike’s advertisement debuted July 1, 1988, featuring 80-year-old Walt Stack running across the Golden Gate Bridge. This would be first of many memorable and inspiring ads to use this slogan.

However, Nike’s world famous phrase wasn’t inspired by some jaw-dropping, superhuman olympic feat like one might assume, but by the final words of a man about to be executed for murder in Utah. Just before his execution, Gary Gilmore stated to the firing squad, “Let’s do it.” Needless to say, Dan Wieden, of Wieden and Kennedy, Nike’s advertising agency, most likely left this detail out during his pitch as he reworked the phrase to “Just Do It.” Although its origins and inception aren’t glamorous, the eight-letter slogan went on to be among the world’s most memorable in advertising history, and Nike continues to thrive as the world’s largest sporting goods maker.

But how could one little phrase yield so much success? Wieden puts it in as simple of terms as the slogan itself: ‘Just Do It’ summed up sports. It wasn’t focussed on any individual sport and brought athletes and enthusiasts together by keeping to one theme. Wieden “wanted something that would speak to women who just started walking to get in shape and people who were world class athletes…something that had the same connection with both.” However, much of its success can also be contributed to the fact that the slogan could be applied to much more than just sports. “This line meant something to some people that was much deeper than what we were talking about,” Wieden says. It could give someone the push they needed to deal with something they may have been otherwise procrastinating on, or avoiding.

In the end, this short, confident and memorable slogan projected the personality and attitude people craved, and the product became as much of a fashion statement as a sports accessory.