The idea behind the slogan came from a convict facing a firing squad. Back in 1988, Wieden was struggling to come up with a line that would go viral. The night before he was supposed to pitch in the final line, Wieden got really concerned about it and therefore, stayed up whole night to think it over. He wrote down five final lines and narrowed it down to one that he believed in the most and that was “Just Do It”.
Wieden was recalling a man in Portland when coming up with a new Nike slogan. The man grew up in Portland, where he was doing criminal acts and then murdered a man and a woman. When the criminal was standing in front of the firing squad, they asked him if he had any final thoughts. The criminal said: Let’s do it. Wiener didn’t like Let’s do it, so he changed it to Just Do It. The criminal mentioned before was Gary Gilmore, who grew up in Portland, the hometown of both Nike and Wieden+Kennedy.
Phil Knight, Nike’s co-founder was very sceptical about the slogan and he told Wieden “We don’t need that shit”. Wieden really believed in the slogan and he persuaded him to trust him on this one and it went big really quickly. The both slogan and Nike’s swoosh logo helped the brand to overtake the then-rival Reebok and form it into a global giant as we all know it now. Many magazines and journalists described the slogan as the best tagline of the 20th century, connecting the current situation with people and making them believe that they can be successful too by wearing the Nike products. The key was that the tagline was short, simple and memorable.
The slogan was so successful that it received many comments and was included in many memes in the last years. We can find plenty of just do it memes on the internet, mostly with funny and/or sarcastic meaning. Most likely the most famous one is Shia Labeouf just do it meme, more specifically the video of Shia Labeouf screaming “Just Do It”.