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THE BEST NIKE ADS THROUGH THE AGES

nike ads

There must be very few people in this world who aren’t familiar with Nike, which has as much to do with the brand’s advertising as its unparalleled selection of products. Nike ads are known for their authenticity, high celebrity count and social and political bravery. They’re also amazing at evoking all kinds of emotions – from euphoria to sadnessempathy to inspiration

Today, we present the ultimate line-up of Nike commercials.

From the Michael-Jordan-meets-Bugs-Bunny ad for the Air Jordan 6 Hare, to Colin Kaepernick’s feted ‘Just Do It’ statement piece, Nike has created commercials that will be remembered for decades to come. We explore how they do it and pick a winner in each category. 

Looking for some inspiration for your own television commercial? Make sure you take a minute to discover our Summer of Sport playlist, created to help you tell sports stories and soundtrack the best sporting moments.

Each of our tracks can be sampled, downloaded and licenced for use across the world for any creative project.

Alternatively, try our subscription service, The Essential Edit Subscription, which provides access to our extensive catalogue for a monthly fee. 

nike ads

Nike Ads 2020 

You Can’t Stop Us 

During the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Nike took a moment to celebrate the beauty of sport with their ad You Can’t Stop Us.

Sport inspires, motivates and provides us with purpose, and in this ad Nike suggests people around the world will find a way to participate in sport, no matter what.  

To accompany the reflective visuals and voiceover, they opted for a track filled with emotion. The music features heartening strings, soft drums and gentle piano, which subliminally encourages the audience to identify with its message. 

Check out more 2020 ads by taking a look at our The Best Sports Ads of the Past Year.

Nike Ads 2019 

Dream Crazier 

In 2019, Nike collaborated with Serena Williams to raise audience awareness of the hurdles female athletes must struggle to overcome – fundamentally, it proves that sportswomen will be criticised no matter what they do.

The ad collates clips of epic athletic triumphs and concludes with the tagline: ‘It’s only crazy until you do it.’  

To underscore the campaigning tone, Nike opts for an impassioned track that builds to a peak, just like the athletes of the ad’s focus.  

Looking for a similar track for your next project? Take a moment to browse our Thoughtful/Reflective playlist

Nike Ads 2018 

Nothing Beats A Londoner 

The Nike ad that united music producers Mark Ronson and Tone P with British icons such as Skepta, Giggs, Jorja Smith, J Hus, AJ Tracey and Dave inner-city London setting was destined for success. 

Furiously fast-paced and wickedly funny, it’s got to be one of our favourite ads of all time.  

Throughout Nothing Beats a Londoner, the music switches up with each narrator. Our favourite musical moment comes at the beginning, when Skepta’s Shutdown plays as the British rapper strolls casually into a London corner shop.  

Tell your own story with a little help from one of our Storytelling Background music offerings

Nike Ads 2017 

The Roger Effect 

The Roger Effect focuses on tennis star Roger Federer and his outsize influence on fans. 

In the ad, the moment Federer serves his winning shot, everyone in the venue – including the umpire – spills out in a scramble to find the nearest tennis court.  

As the crowd swiftly empties from the stadium, the tune is Wicked One by The Hives, which works perfectly with the frenetic atmosphere and adds an extra layer of erratic energy to the visuals. 

Interested in incorporating a rock track into your next project? Take a look at our Rock Music playlist

Nike Ads 2016 

Unlimited You 

Nike 2016 advert Unlimited You inspires viewers to go above and beyond their potential.

Starring the likes of Serena Williams, Zach LaVine and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (The Mountain from Game of Thrones), the ad opens quietly with a wide shot of a marathon runner appearing on the horizon and gradually builds to a peak of amped-up intensity – in fact, it becomes so disorderly that even the narrator can’t keep up. 

The music features a driving beat that keeps the story flowing. Along with the narration, the track provides an element of consistency that switches up every few seconds.  

Discover our Driving/Exciting/Exhilarating playlist to discover similar compositions. 

Nike Ads 2015 

Last 

We love an ad that aligns perfectly with its soundtrack. Every Little Bit Hurts by Aretha Franklin defines Nike’s 2015 ad Last – and for this reason, it’s one of our favourites ever. 

Last focuses on the final marathon runner struggling bravely for the finish line, the penultimate stragglers having finished way ahead of her; even the streetcleaners are starting to sweep up. 

She knows she’s still got a long way to go but she’s determined to finish what she started. It’s the age-old adage our parents drilled into us: it’s not the winning that counts, it’s the taking part.  

Browse, sample and download our collection of soul music over on our Soul Playlist page

Controversial Nike Ads 

Just Do It: Colin Kaepernick 

Over the years, Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ tagline has been interpreted in manifold ways – but, by far the most powerful is Colin Kaepernick’s turn’ in 2018.  

Nike famously supported the athlete after he protested against racial injustice by refusing to stand for the national anthem.

Just a few weeks later, he narrated a ‘Just Do It’ ad motivating viewers to believe in themselves and exceed their ultimate ambitions. As he speaks a gentle, captivating piano track plays, helping viewers empathise with his words. 

Keen to use a similar track for your next project? Explore our collection of piano production music.  

Vintage Nike Ads 

I Am Not A Role Model (1993) 

In the early 90s Nike released an ad starring basketball player Charles Barkley to remind audiences that sports players like him don’t necessarily choose to be idolised. 

‘I am not a role model,’ the Phoenix Spurs player says directly to the viewer. ‘I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.’  

Nike chose not to use a background music track to ensure viewers focused on Barkley’s short speech, but sound effects evoke the raw, thought-provoking nature of his words. 

Discover some of our favourite sound effects over at our Miscellaneous playlist

Famous Nike Ads 

One Day We Won’t Need This Day (2020) 

Nike threw a curveball to celebrate International Women’s Day in 2020 with the One Day We Won’t Need This Day commercial. 

The advert challenges the very concept of the annual event, looking forward to a world where the knowledge and acceptance of women’s achievements is so commonplace, we won’t need to celebrate.  

The music is uplifting – an orchestral strings motif that builds and builds, as the visuals exhibit the strength and resilience of female athletes around the world.  

Explore an array of similar songs over in our Warm/Uplifting playlist

Funny Nike Ads 

Just Do It (1988) 

The original Just Do It commercial is one of the best Nike ads of all time, and also one of the silliest.

The ad focuses on 80-year-old runner Walt Stack – a well-known figure in San Francisco – crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, as he does every day. ‘People ask me, how do I stop my teeth from chattering in the wintertime,’ he says. ‘I leave them in my locker…’   

The music is fitting for its 80s era; the bright, slightly exotic retro sound enhances the sunrise aesthetic and gives the viewer a lovely sense that all is right with the world.  

Discover a slew of uplifting songs from our catalogue over in our Bright/Optimistic playlist

Kobe Bryant Nike Ad  

Mamba Forever (2020) 

Kobe Bryant and Nike shared a special relationship, and seven months after his passing the Swoosh released one of the most moving ads of all time.

Narrated by rapper Kendrick Lamar, the Mamba Forever ad focuses on the key lesson the basketball player taught us – be better.  

The ardent piano track is a modern take on Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and highlights the intensity of the message. 

Lebron James Nike Ad 

Come Out of Nowhere (2016) 

Hollywood directors such as Alfonso Cuarón and David Fincher sometimes opt for a black and white aesthetic to prompt the audience to focus on the characters, dialogue and the moral of the story – and this is exactly what Nike did with their 2016 ad Come Out of Nowhere.  

The narrative of basketball hero LeBron James inspires youngsters to defy expectations. He reminds the audience he’s just as human as the rest of us and that anyone, from any background, has a shot at becoming a legend.  

The music that runs throughout the commercial features vocals, keyboard and effects with an almost ecclesiastical feel, which heightens the message and also makes LeBron appear borderline celestial.  

Want to incorporate cherubic sounds into your next production? Take a moment to check out our Angelic/ Heavenly Choir playlist

Michael Jordan Nike Ads 

Bugs Bunny Ad (1992) 

Ever wonder how Space Jam – a film that amalgamates the worlds of Looney Tunes and the NBA – came about? Wonder no more as we present the early 90s ad that brought Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan together on screen for the first time.  

To advertise the ‘Hare’ Air Jordan 6, the cartoon rabbit and the basketball icon are on court together.

The two go up against a group of basketball bullies (while wearing the new Jordan silhouette, of course), playing until all the opposition is knocked out. At the end, Bugs hints at the future collaboration with the line: ‘This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’   

The music has a cinematic feel – grand, vibrant and literally animated. Listen closely and you’ll hear a lot of brass, wood percussion and cartoon sound effects. Plus, the world-renowned Looney Tunes theme is incorporated at the very end to put a smile on the faces of the audience.  

Listen to our Cartoon/Animation playlist to discover similar tracks for your next project.  

Christiano Ronaldo Nike Ad 

The Switch (2016) 

Nike’s six-minute-long epic, The Switch, released in 2016, takes inspiration from the identity-swap film Freaky Friday, as football legend Christiano Ronaldo and a young London fan change bodies after colliding at a football match. 

As the young northern lad enjoys Ronaldo’s flashy lifestyle, the boy’s teammates are amazed by his newly acquired football prowess...  

The upbeat theme throughout is Turn Up by The Heavy; the rock track’s electrifying atmosphere immerses viewers in the fun-filled narrative. 

Browse, sample and download similar songs over in our Rock & Metal playlist

Feeling Inspired? Explore Our Production Music Catalogue 

As you can see from the above ads, music plays a vital role in Nike commercials: this is one of the key reasons they’re so memorable and effective. If you’re looking to produce your own television commercial, we recommend choosing a high-quality track from our expansive catalogue to help you stand out from the crowd.  

Start exploring our music catalogue today by diving into our mood and genre playlists or exploring our edit and expertise pages. 

Looking to read more about sports? Here are some other articles you might like... 

The Best Sports Ads of 2021 

The Best Bud Light Commercials 

Subliminal Advertising: What You Need to Know 

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