7 Best Nike Commercials of All Time
On a recent podcast, we shared our list of all-time favorite Nike commercials. It was a grueling list to make since (1) Nike has made so many commercials, and (2) so many of of those commercials are great.
Memory and nostalgia also come into play. Nike has been making commercials for over 30 years. Looking at some of Nike’s popular commercials from the 80s and 90s through today’s eyeballs is a different experience. Quite frankly, many simply don’t hold up (including, sadly, the Jordan-Mars Blackmon series).
So this is a list that is (1) highly subjective, and (2) could only exist at this exact moment in time. That being said, we’re fairly confident these are the best Nike commercials ever made…
Top 7 Nike Commercials
These are our picks for the best Nike commercials in the history of Nike commercials. For dramatic purposes, we’re counting them down from seven to one…
7. Worth the Wait (2016)
Let’s be clear, this spot detailing the experiences of Northeastern Ohioans watching LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers shock the world by winning the 2016 NBA Finals may be the best commercial on the list. But we couldn’t rate it number one for two reasons—we’re from Northeast Ohio, so we’re biased; and it’s just too recent. But it’s a beautifully constructed and emotional commercial that reminds us of the transcendent power of sports.
6. I Am Not a Role Model (1993)
Michael Jordan may be the basketball player most associated with Nike commercials, but this spot with Charles Barkley packs a wallop. Controversial at the time, this commercial flips the script on the typical Nike ad deconstructing the idea of sports stars as role models. Filmed in black and white, close up, the commercial is an illustration of just how good Nike is at crafting advertising around the personas of its athletes.
5. If You Let Me Play (1995)
While Nike commercials are generally known for featuring big celebrities, some of the brand’s best spots come from showing the role of sports in the lives of everyday people. This one is a prime example. The commercial has a powerful and important message, detailing the positive influence sports can have on the lives of young women. For anyone who has a daughter, this commercial hits home.
4. Failure (1997)
The Nike-Jordan commercial that still holds up the best. In it, we see Jordan not in his basketball gear but in his “after game” clothes walking through the back of the arena. Over this, we hear Jordan’s narration giving us stats on how many shots he missed, games he lost, and game-winners that didn’t go in. The overall message: There is no success without failure. It’s an effective twist on the “Just do it” message and a different spin on Jordan late in his career.
3. Courage (2008)
This spot that aired during the 2008 Olympics is one of Nike’s more abstract commercials, but it works amazingly well. Different images ranging from sports stars (LeBron, Jordan, Federer, Armstrong, etc.) to cheetahs running to a flower opening flicker in quick succession creating a bigger picture of what it really means to “Just do it”. All the while, The Killers fantastic tune “All These Things That I’ve Done” plays over top. It’s a reminder of how artistic Nike commercials can be.
2. Tiger Juggling (1999)
While a lot of Nike commercials featuring famous athletes of the moment don’t stand the test of time, this one featuring Tiger Woods is the opposite—like a fine wine, it’s only gotten better. The commercial is simple, with a static, continuous take showing Tiger juggling a golf ball with a golf club and then thrusting it up in the air and hitting it with perfect form. The act itself, which looks like it has to be CGI but isn’t, still amazes. This is the wonder and joy of sports bottled in a 30-second impromptu ad that mesmerizes.
1. Find Your Greatness (2012)
The most human ad Nike has ever created. It speaks to not just those of us trying to be great athletes, but all of us who are trying. This commercial is beautifully simple in its execution but hauntingly complex in its overall message. It digs deep into our psyches with a campaign built around the idea of personal greatness and that it can be achieved by anyone. Through the form and aesthetic of the commercial, that message is delivered with quiet power. It grabs your eyes, compels you to watch, makes you think, makes you feel, and leaves you inspired. Honestly, what more can you ask of a minute-long ad?
THAT’S OUR OPINION…
NOW GIVE YOUR HUMAN OPINION AND SEE WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THESE PICKS.
Listen to our podcast discussion of our favorite Nike ads…