They’re a world famous brand with a world famous slogan, but Nike have just dropped the spectacular bombshell that their famous “Just do it” phrase was actually inspired by the legendary last words of a notorious murderer.
When Gary Gilmore found himself on the wrong side of a firing squad in 1977 for robbing and butchering two men in Utah, he couldn’t stand the suspense and so he reportedly snarled, “let’s do it” just before the executioner’s bullets sent him into the great by and by.
Watching the last stand of Gary Gilmore was advertising executive Dan Wieden who thought Gilmore’s “killer line” could be adapted to sell sports and leisure wear by the truck load and also inspire a new generation of athletes to preform above and beyond the call of duty.
Dezeen magazine reports that during a crunch marketing campaign with Nike bosses in 1988, the co-founder of advertising agency Wieden & Kennedy proposed a slightly altered version of Gary Gilmore’s last words as an all inclusive tagline which could bring cohesion to Nike’s upcoming series of TV adverts which Wieden felt had no unifying factor.
“We… came up with five different 30 second spots. The night before [a meeting with Nike] I got concerned because… there wasn’t an overlying sensibility to them all. Some were funny, some were solemn. So I thought… we need a tagline to pull this stuff together.
“I wrote about four or five ideas. I narrowed it down to the last one, which was Just do it. The reason I did that one was funny because I was recalling a man in Portland. He murdered a man and a woman, and was put before a firing squad. And they asked him if he had any final thoughts and he said, ‘Let’s do it.’ And for some reason I went, ‘Now damn. 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.'”
Not surprisingly, Nike initially hated the idea, but the powers that be eventually warmed to what would become arguably the best tagline of the 20th century, and the slogan ‘Just do it’ appeared for the first time at the end of an advert featuring 80-year-old runner Walter Stack. And the rest is history.
[Photo Via Getty Images]