“Just do it” is one of the most recognizable marketing slogans of all time, but before those words became inextricably associated with very expensive sneakers, they were part of convicted murderer Gary Gilmore’s final statement before his 1977 execution.
Gilmore was convicted of robbing and killing a gas station attendant and a motel worker. He was then sentenced to death by five-man firing squad in Utah. When asked if he had any last words, he said simply, “Let’s do it.”
The phrase appealed to Dan Wieden, head of the ad agency Wieden and Kennedy. According to Business Insider, the decision to base Nike’s slogan on a murderer getting ready to die by firing squad wasn’t really given too much thought. They, ahem, just did it:
“I like the “do it” part of it,” Wieden told filmmaker Doug Pray in his 2009 documentary “Art & Copy”.
“None of us really paid that much attention,” he recalled of the team working on the Nike ad. “We thought ‘Yeah. That’d work.’”
This is, understandably, not an origin story Nike is fond of.