“Just Do It”: the Nike Slogan inspired by the last words of a condemned to death.3 min read
We all know that Nike sportswear company is among the most popular in the world.
It became famous during the ’80s and exploded in popularity in the 90s (often called “Nike era”). The reasons that have made the brand popular are to be found in the excellent marketing work, which combined television advertising, famous collaborations or sponsorships in Hollywood movies.
“Back to the Future”, in 1985, became famous also for the shoes of Michael J. Fox, which today hold the record sales price at an auction (carried out in 2016) with 106,000 Dollars!
The slogan that made Nike famous is:
Just Do It.
This slogan has a curious and unsuspicious genesis! The imperative motto was invented in 1988 by Dan Wieden, co-founder of the agency Wieden + Kennedy, responsible for many Nike advertising campaigns. Speaking about the success of the “Just Do It” campaigns, the Advertising Age magazine classified them as one of the greatest hits of the 20th century, describing the phrase as “of universal and intensely personal value”.
But where does the slogan come from?
The story of these three words begins about a decade before their celebrity. On January 17, 1977, Gary Mark Gilmore, a criminal who at the time knew great notoriety, was killed by a firing squad in Draper, Utah. Gilmore was sentenced to death for the murder of two men he had robbed, a gas pump operator and a hotelier.
The guilt of the man was beyond doubt and it was only the last parenthesis of a life full of crimes and robberies. Gilmore, who the time had thirty-six-year-old, confessed everything and asked to be killed by a firing squad, a sentence which he considered more honorable than be hanged.
After two requests for suspension of the sentence, by the mother of the man and the American Civil Liberties Union, which slid the execution from November to January, the man clamored to be killed, trying twice suicide in prison.
So, on January 17, 1977, at 8:07, he found himself facing the firing squad. Five armed men, local police officers, were hidden behind a curtain with five small holes through which they aimed with their guns. When asked the last word, Gilmore simply replied:
Let’s do it – Let’s do it
Thomas Meersman, the Reverend of the Prison, gave the last sacrament to Gilmore, who pronounced his last words in Latin: “Dominus vobiscum” (in Latin: “The Lord be with you”) Meersman replied, “Et cum spiritu tuo ” (“And with your spirit”).
Gilmore’s story, although not one of the most prolific serial killers in history or one of the most heinous criminals of the 1900s, knew a great celebrity because he was the first man condemned after the reintroduction of the death penalty in the United States. The writer Norman Mailer, Pulitzer Prize, wrote a book entitled “The Executioner’s Song”, which was transposed in 1982 into a TV film starring Tommy Lee Jones, Rosanna Arquette and Eli Wallach (below the trailer):
Dan Wieden, the inventor of the Nike slogan, said that he drew on Gilmore’s last words to create his famous slogan, slightly changed to create that “imperative” value that drives the sportsman to take action, without spending so much time. Now you can think about it!