"'Just Do It': Gary Gilmore, Nancy Reagan, and Other Cultural Entanglements of the Nike Slogan"

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Within the canon of advertising slogans, those rough-hewn, demotic poems of American commerce, Nike's "Just Do It" holds an exalted position. The slogan had an immediate impact in establishing the Nike brand in the late 1980s, and it has endured through succeeding decades -- not only for its marketing utility, but in its broader cultural resonance. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the three-word gem invented by Dan Wieden in 1988 stands above all other slogans, as judged by any sensible criteria of advertising success.

The network of meanings surrounding "Just Do It" turns out to be much more complicated than we might imagine, given the simplicity of the text in question. This essay will offer a variety of approaches in an attempt at full analysis. As interpretive perspectives shift, different elements take priority in the generation or delimiting of meaning: authorial intentions; readers' responses; socio-political contexts; and affiliations with deep structural patterns. All of these interpretive coordinates will prove useful as resources for probing the cultural entanglements of "Just Do It."