Nike’s Iconic ‘Just Do It’ Slogan Was Inspired by Killer’s Last Words Before Firing Squad Execution

It’s one of the most recognizable and iconic taglines in the world.

The words ‘Just Do It’ have been seen, heard and spoken numerous times since Nike released it as its slogan more than 25 years ago.

And its message reaches deep into consumers’ psyche, encouraging them to push past limitations and excuses and to go for what they want.  But as it turns out, the popular catchphrase has pretty grim origins.

Dan Wieden, who came up with the phrase, said it was inspired by the last words murderer Gary Gilmore uttered, seconds before a firing squad executed him decades ago.

“I was recalling a man in Portland in the 70s” Wieden explains. “He grew up in Portland, and ran around doing criminal acts in the country, and was in Utah where he murdered a man and woman, and was sent to jail and put before a firing squad.

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

Initially co-founder Phil Knight turned him down, but fortunately for him and Nike, he trusted Wieden as it turned out to be one of the most effective taglines of the 20th century.