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A Look at Nike’s Most Tear-Jerking Commercials Through the Years

Today, Nike turns 50. To celebrate 50 years since the first Nike brand shoe launched, take a look back at some of the Swoosh’s most powerful commercials to date.

Colin Kaepernick in Dream Crazy

In 2018, Nike released the “Dream Crazy” ad featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who sparked controversy for kneeling during the National Anthem — and the slogan: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The next year, it was named outstanding commercial at the Creative Arts Emmys, marking the first time Nike has won the award since 2002.

Dream Crazier

Narrated by Serena Williams, Nike’s 2019 Dream Crazier ad featured female athletes who have broken barriers, including Simone Biles, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Chloe Kim and members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.

Tiger Woods’ Comeback

In 2019, Nike aired this commercial just moments after Tiger Woods’ final putt dropped to win the 2019 Masters Tournament, marking his first Major title win in 11 years.

Courage

“I got soul, but I’m not a soldier,” played in Nike’s 2008 “Courage” ad, which celebrated the Beiijing Summer Olympics. The emotionally-charged commercial also marked the 20th anniversary of the launch of the “Just Do It” slogan. Key athletes in the ad included Michael Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Liu Xiang, Michael Johnson, Steve Prefontaine, LeBron James, John McEnroe, Wayne Rooney, Joan Benoit and Kobe Bryant.

If You Let Me Play

In 1995, Nike sent a powerful message with the “If You Let Me Play” ad in support of women’s sports. Little girls can be heard saying, “I will like myself more… I will be 60% less likely to get breast cancer… I will suffer less depression… I will be more likely to leave a man who beats me… less likely to get pregnant before I want… I will learn what it means to be strong. If you let me play sports.”

LeBron James & the Cleveland Cavaliers

Nike honored Cleveland, Ohio, with its “Worth the Wait” commercial following LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship win in 2016 — the first major sports title for the city since 1964.

Equality

In 2017, Michael B. Jordan narrated Nike’s “Equality” ad that put a spotlight on diversity. The The 90-second commercial, which aired during the Grammy Awards, featured appearances from Serena Williams, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Victor Cruz, Megan Rapinoe, Dalilah Muhammad and Gabby Douglas.

USWNT World Cup Win

After the U.S. Women’s National Team secured back-to-back World Cup championships in 2019, Nike released its “Never Stop Winning” commercial to celebrate the win as well as the team’s lasting impact on sports and culture.

Mamba Forever

In a commercial — with no imagery, just words and voice-overs — Nike documented Kobe Bryant’s story. The ad came on the day thousands assembled to the Staples Center for Bryant’s memorial in February 2020. Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 that same year.

RE2PECT

Nike honored Jordan Brand athlete Derek Jeter in 2014 during his final season in the MLB with the “RE2PECT” spot, which showed athletes, coaches and celebrities tipping their caps to the New York Yankee legend.

The Williams Sisters

In 2020, Nike put the spotlight on Venus and Serena Williams’ bond and their impact on the sport of tennis with the “You Can’t Stop Sisters” ad. Venus narrated the video, saying, “Ever since we were little girls you’ve compared us to each other… it’s funny you saw two tennis players trying to win a game. We saw two sisters changing it.”

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