Nike Fans Are Only Just Discovering Dark Truth About Brand’s Slogan And Its Connection To Death Row

People are only just finding out that Nike's logo has a dark truth behind it and it's connected to death row. 
Credit: Alamy

People are only just finding out that Nike’s logo has a dark truth behind it and it’s connected to death row. 

Of all the slogans out there, the Nike phrase might be the most iconic. What other brand can be recognised instantly by just three little words?

But this week, the internet has uncovered a dark truth about the beginnings of the slogan, and it’s left everybody feeling creeped out.

It turns out that the famous ‘Just Do It’ slogan has a rather dark origin story, including some unexpected ties to death row…

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Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ was coined in 1988 by Dan Wieden, the founder of the advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, as per NPR.

It’s become synonymous with the athletics brand and seems to signify a certain sense of determination and motivation that fits the sporting lifestyle.

However, it has now transpired that there’s a rather sobering origin story to what we all thought was an upbeat phrase.

‘Just Do It’ all started because of a murderer on death row.

The originator of the Nike slogan was none other than double murderer Gary Gilmore.

Gilmore was convicted of his crimes in 1977 in Utah. He robbed and killed both a gas station attendant and a motel worker.

Gary Gilmore
Gary Gilmore’s final words were ‘Let’s do it’. Credit: Alamy

Gilmore was sentenced to death and given the option of how he’d like to be executed.

He reportedly chose the option of death by firing squad, and uttered the immortal final words: “Let’s do it.”

This acceptance of a brutal and violent death somehow metamorphosised into ‘Just Do It’, the Nike slogan.

During an interview with Deezen, Wieden revealed all about how he turned the killer’s final words into the well-known sporting phrase.

He claimed he’d been having some real trouble coming up with something that he felt was good enough for the Nike brand.

Nike slogan 'Just Do It'.
Nike’s slogan is connected to death row. Credit: Nike

He said: “I was recalling this man in Portland. He ran around doing criminal acts in the country and was in Utah where he murdered a man and a woman and was sent to jail and put before a firing squad.

“They asked him if he had any final thoughts and he said: ‘Let’s do it’. I didn’t like ‘Let’s do it’ so I just changed it to ‘Just Do It’.

“The phrase was initially dismissed by Nike’s co-founder Phil Knight but Weiden asked him to trust him on it. And the rest is history.”

The slogan has been one of the most successful in advertising history, and was once described by the advertising magazine Campaign as ‘arguably the best tagline of the 20th century’.

“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,” it writes.

“In fact, the line chimed with Nike’s strategy of creating a point of difference between itself and Reebok, which was focusing on the aerobics craze, by targeting people regardless of age, gender or physical fitness level. It led to the brand being worn as a fashion statement, not just fitness gear.”

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Written by Annie Walton Doyle

Annie Walton Doyle is a content editor at IGV who specialises in trending, lifestyle and entertainment news. She graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London, with a degree in English Literature. Annie has previously worked with organisations such as The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Harvard University, the Pulitzer Prize and 22 Words.