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Nike Celebrates 25 Years of Just Do It

Posted by Mark J. Miller on July 3, 2013 11:47 AM

Nike is celebrating the 25th anniversary of arguably one of the best advertising slogans in history: Just Do It. While the phrase has become synonymous with much more than just the company's swoosh symbol, many are unaware of the slogan's scandalous inspiration. 

Back in the 1970s, America executed convicted murderer Gary Gilmore. Gilmore's last words before the firing squad took aim were "Let's do it." The event, the first of its kind in nearly a decade, inspired Norman Mailer's "Executioner's Song" and in turn gave birth to Nike's 'Just Do It' campaign that started 11 years later.

The inspiration behind the iconic phrase has long been kept mum, as "people started reading things into it much more than sport," said creator Dan Wieden, who co-founded the Wieden + Kennedy agency in a 2009 documentary, Art & Copy.  

Liz Dolan, a former marketing chief at Nike, says in the film that the inspiration of the phrase was kept quiet: “That was not the version I heard when I arrived at Nike,” according to The New York Times. “I’m sure they didn’t want anyone to really know.”

Part of the beauty of the campaign is the vagueness of “it,” AdWeek points out, since it can be applied well outside of the world of sports.

The first commercial featuring the phrase starred 80-year-old Walt Stack, who ran 17 miles every morning. In a perfect 'Just do it' moment, Stack says that in order to keep his teeth from chattering in the winter, he leaves them in his locker. 

However it came to be, “Just Do It” has become a cultural icon, and as AdWeek opines, no other slogan will likely ever come close to it. We can't argue with that. 

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