Just Do It …

It has been described as arguably the best tagline of the 20th century. It is certainly one of the most recognised.

But, Nike’s fitspo “Just do it” line has its dark roots on death row.

It was inspired by the last words of a convicted killer before his execution.

In a new interview, Dan Wieden, the advertising executive behind the famous campaign, opened up about its origins.

It was 1988 and Wieden was struggling to come up with a line that could capture the sportswear company’s spirit across different TV commercials the ad agency had created for them.

“I was recalling a man in Portland,” Wieden told Dezeen magazine.

Utah killer Gary Gilmore was sentenced to death in 1977 for robbing and murdering two men.

“They asked him if he had any final thoughts and he said: ‘Let’s do it’,” Wieden recalled.

“And for some reason I went: ‘Now damn. How do you do that? How do you ask for an ultimate challenge that you are probably going to lose, but you call it in?’ So I thought, well, I didn’t like ‘Let’s do it’ so I just changed it to ‘Just do it’.”

At first Nike’s founders hated the idea.

“[Co-founder] 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 ‘Just do it’ line made its debut that same year in an ad featuring 80-year-old runner Walt Stack.

“I run 17 miles every morning,” Stack says in the ad. “People ask me how I keep my teeth from chattering in the winter-time.

just do it“I leave them in my locker,” he smiles as the screen fades to black and the slogan “Just do it” appears with the trademark swoosh.

The slogan and the swoosh resonated with all audiences and helped Nike overtake their rival Reebok to dominate the sneaker market.

It is “arguably the best tagline of the 20th century,” says Campaign magazine, noting it “cut across age and class barriers, linked Nike with success – and made consumers believe they could be successful too, just by wearing its products”.

Of the slogan that is still popular 30 years later, the magazine said: “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.”

Article published first March 19, 2015 here: http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/nikes-just-do-it-slogan-inspired-by-death-row-prisoners-last-words-20150318-1m2oys.html

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