“McEnroe swears by them.” Nike tennis shoe ad
When John McEnroe appeared in Wimbledon in 1981, Nike ran this ad, poking fun at his tendency to curse on the court. Another version of the ad read, “McEnroe’s favorite four-letter word.” McEnroe went on to win Wimbledon that year.
October 1981, page 37 – the first time Nike appeared in Creative Review. It was a poster for tennis shoes from a student team at a now-long-dead agency called French Cruttenden Osborn. The copy read: “McEnroe swears by them”. As what we would now call a ‘challenger brand’ Nike was beginning to make a name for itself by sponsoring the athletes that made other brands nervous. Over the years this would become a deliberate tactic – Cantona, Ian Wright, Charles Barkley, Nike loved the bad boys of sport.