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Connecting Aspiration and Action: Nike Challenges the World to ‘Just Do It’

Very few taglines express a brand’s truth—its reason for being, its driving purpose—quite as powerfully as Nike’s “Just Do It.”

The timeless tagline was created in 1988 by Dan Wieden of Wieden+Kennedy to help expand the Nike brand’s consumer base beyond hardcore male athletes. And yes, the rumors you heard about its origins are true: It was based on the defiant utterance of a murderer when asked if he had any final thoughts before his execution, “Let’s do it.” But Wieden’s “Just Do It” goes much bigger and deeper than those infamous last words.

Everybody has a body and is therefore a potential athlete.

– Bill Bowerman, Nike Co-founder

It’s a campaign purposefully positioned to “Emanate a level of soulfulness … that people crave,” according to former Director of Brand Planning and Marketing for Nike, Jerome Conlon. During the time, the U.S. was navigating through an obesity trend, an economic recession and the phasing out sports and health programs in schools. The role fitness played in everyday life had diminished, and with it the positive spiritual and emotional lift that a more fit, active lifestyle brings. Led by these insights, Nike found itself turning inward to find its brand truth. With guidance by W+K, Nike tapped into the spirit of inner joy that comes with working out, making its audience the protagonist in a story shared by millions.

The slogan and campaign challenged anyone seeking the confidence to change to “Just Do It”. The ad became a universal rallying cry that resonated both inside and outside of sports, for generations to come.