Exactly 30 years ago, in 1987, Nike first released its black-and-white “Revolution” campaign. Much of the time has passed since then, and the campaign has been receiving many contradictory opinions; nevertheless, the it still has a huge affection on Nike’s current brand image and has brought some fallouts to all Nike’s campaigns since then.

It was 1987, a year when Nike had passed the corporate sales mark that could seem inconceivable – $1 billion. However successful the athletic shoe manufacturer was at that time, Reebok, its chief competitor, was still the worlds’ No. 1 sport shoe company. Back then, Nike was in process of remaking its approach to advertising and marketing strategies, and was thinking of creating a campaign that would make a difference. The promotional video was going to be focused on a new line of Nike Air shoes, and the company has come up with a catch line for it – Revolution in Motion. Partnership with Michael Jordan was well set up for the upcoming video; however, one thing was still missing –  some catchy music to play in the background that would help launch the campaign. This is when advertising agency Weiden+Kennedy made its entrance to help Nike make their campaign a truly exceptional one  – by using the Beatles “Revolution” song.

“Revolution in Motion” was directed by Paula Grief and Peter Kagan, who met each other through legendary photographer Arthur Elgot. As executive creative director Susan Hoffman recalls, she and her two colleagues were taking a lunch break at a café in Portland, and suddenly got hit by an idea – Beatles “Revolution” song together with the video style and sports seemed to be a winning combination. Dan Wieden and David Kennedy did not take the idea seriously at first, but after revising and thinking it over, the agency owners finally gave the greenlight.

Soon after the campaign aired on TV screens across the world, Beatles’ record label, Apple Records, sued Nike for $15 million, with the band’s lawyer claiming that the song was used without band’s proper agreement. Eventually, the situation did not go any further, and the initial problem was set at rest, but it forged ahead the use of popular music in advertising. As Josh Rabinovits, director of music at Grey Group told AdWeek in an interview, “The Nike ‘Revolution’ use was monumental in many ways. Not only did the ad resonate with the visuals and concept, it also really opened the door to high-concept ads utilizing great — and expensive — music.”

The message that “Revolution in Motion” was trying to convey – and actually, what Nike’s vision has always been inclined to – is to eliminate the distance between professional athletes and people who do sport for fun and pleasure, and to bring inspiration to everyone who loves sport. With brief appearances of Michael Jordan and John McEnroe along with amateurs jogging, playing tennis, toddlers making their first steps in sport, and the Beatles playing in the background, the campaign was truly seen as a celebration, with its emotional tone and power.

As for the advertising world, Nike’s “Revolution” advertisement was perceived as a perfect example of how advertising and iconic, “classic 1960s” music can make good collaboration and help with branding of a product, as well as taking it up a notch from its competitors. “This commercial illustrates how television advertising can become the ultimate emotion builder, and demonstrates that a brand can be emotional and thought provoking,” – marketing consultant Tim Glowa observed in 2004.

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