One Minute Motivation: 10 Most Inspiring Nike Commercials

Along with making us want to buy their shoes, many Nike ads are very inspirational.  It is amazing how a 60 second shoe commercial can motivated us to workout, conquer challenges and face our fears.For years Nike has been the world leader in Athletic apparel.  They have also been endorsed by some of the world’s all-time great athletes.  Nike has also influenced the way world views athletic competition by presenting some of the most creative television commercials.Wieden+Kennedy is the ad agency responsible for creating those impactful ads.  They are the agency who came up with the “Just Do It” slogan.  Here are 10 of the most inspirational television commercials Nike has ever produced.
 My Better is Better (SPARQ )

With a heart-pounding song by Saul Williams called “List of Demands”, this commercial makes anyone want to get up and start moving.  The commercial begins by having NFL star Ladainian Tomlinson insist that “my better is better than your better”. This commercial announced the release of the ultra comfortable Nike Sparq Training shoe.  With images of athletes running with parachutes, racing against drag cars, and executing drills, this commercial gets the adrenaline flowing.

This ad is a personal favorite of mine and never ceases to motivate me when I watch it. The commercial appeared during an episode of “American Idol” and may have also been a subtle jab at the Under Armour brand which bought a spot in the Super Bowl.

Music : Saul Williams-“List of Demands

If You Let Me Play

This 1995 ad features young girls presenting the case for female participation in athletics.  With statements like “If you let me play sports, I will be 60% less likely to develop breast cancer” and “I will learn what it means to be strong”, this commercial definitely tugs at the heartstrings.  This commercial not only inspired young women to continue to play sports, but it encouraged adult women to do the same.  This a powerful video that presents sports as not only fun and enjoyable, but meaningful.

A small percentage of people felt as though the ad perpetuated the idea of females needing male approval in order to gain self-worth.  However, most people did not agree with this view. Instead, it was widely seen as children presenting adults-male and female-reasons why sports activity is beneficial for their personal development.


This commercial encourages the spirit of competition.   Fittingly entitled “Battle”, this ad features four well-know NBA guards (Tony Parker, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Steve Nash) battling it out in one-on-one competition.  It also shows amateur basketball players engaging in hoops combat.  The commercial is fast pace with flashes of players driving, dishing, and dunking.

The upbeat music and the sound of sneakers squeaking on a gym floor, create a feeling of intense competition.  There is a back and forth happening throughout the commercial.   If a player makes a layup in one scene, his opponent scores in the next scene. If a team scores by slam dunking, the other team then scores by slam dunking .  This commercial is ultimately about rivalry which can motivate us to become the best we can be.

Music: The Neptunes-“The Battle: Speed”


This commercial has to be one of the most inspiring commercials ever!  It contains scenes of athletic courage.   Gut wrenching scenes of athletes struggling, falling, and failing coupled with a chants of “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier”, makes this commercial extremely inspirational.

Some scenes include Lance Armstrong’s cancer treatment and follow-up victory at the Tour de France, Japanese gymnast Miho Shinoda nearly falling on her head during the 1987 Olympics, and Carl Lewis’s impressive display in the 1984 Olympics.  The commercial moves us to strive harder and to press on no matter what.  The scenes flash quickly and its easy to miss some of what is going on.  There are more than 30 clips shown in about 60 seconds.  Nike has created a page where you can view all of the athletes featured and read about their acts of courage.

Music: The Killers-“These Things I Have Done”

Michael Jordan “Failure”

One of the most memorable commercials featuring Michael Jordan doesn’t even have him playing basketball.  Instead, we see the legendary basketball player walking in slow motion towards the locker room before a game while thinking about how many times he has failed.

This commercial is another example of how Nike often integrates life principles into its commercials.  Seeing one of the most successful athletes of all time listing the number of times he has failed makes us, the audience, feel better about our chances of success.  It also makes Jordan-a larger than life figure-seem more human.  This is a brilliant commercial and ranks among Nike’s most popular.

Music: Unknown


If you wake up early in the morning like I do, you’ll appreciate this commercial.  It begins with the sound of alarm clocks going off and scenes of athletes rolling out of bed into the darkness of their rooms.  It then goes on to show the athletes engaging in their early-morning workouts.

The ad first premiered in 2006 to announce the launch of Nike Air Max 360 shoe which featured no sole just; an all-Nike Air cushion.  This commercial featured many well known athletes and their commitment to training. Whether its surfing while it is still dark, track and field gold medalist Liu Xiang (also featured in Nike’s “Courage“commercial) jumping hurdles at sunup, or NFL Quarterback Tom Brady throwing footballs in the snow, this inspirational commercial drives home the idea of committing to excellence no matter what time of day it is.

Music: AC/DC- “Rock & Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”

“I Can”

From the golden age of Nike motivational commercials, this commercial is one of the most inspiring commercials I’ve ever seen.  This ad encourages us to believe in ourselves and conquer our fears.  It also inspires us to play and become whatever we want to become.

The child hanging on for dear life at 0:16 is an image of perseverance that can inspire anyone.  Perhaps one of the reasons this commercial is so inspiring is because of its ability to take us back to when we were children and we truly believed that nothing was impossible; that we could become anything we wanted.  After the final clip, it is hard not to repeat to yourself, “ I can, I can, I can..”

Music:  The Verve- “Bitter Sweet Symphony”


This ad, which appeared during the 2002 Olympics celebrates the beauty of sports.  The commercial which features footage of professional and amateur athletes, is edited so that the transition from one sport to another creates  continuous movement.  From jogging to gymnastics, baseball to BASE jumping, this commercial seems to include just about every sport they could fit into 90 seconds.

“Move” also won an Emmy Award for Best Commercial 2002; only the second Nike commercial ever to do so.  Among Nike commercial fans, this ad has been called the best ever.

Music: Jonathan Elias (created for Nike)


‘No Excuses’

For those of us who have ever used an excuse as a reason not to workout-which is just about everyone-this commercial is for us.  This ad, which aired New Year’s Eve 2007, features wheelchair basketball player Matt Scott spouting off a number of excuses that we all have used a time or two.  But by the end of the commercial, all of the big excuses we make don’t seem that big.

The beautiful thing about these excuses is they do not just apply to athletics.  Most of the excuses we make for not working out, we make for not doing a lot of things in life.  In that sense, the commercial serves a dual purpose of encouraging us to not make excuses in sports and in life. Errol Morris, the director of “The Thin Blue Line”, also directed this commercial.

Music: None



Driving home the message of preparation, this ad entitle “Training” spotlights some of the worlds best-known athletes as they train for their respective sports.  With inspiring clips of Kobe Bryant weaving through chairs while dibbling, Manny Pacquiao shadow boxing, and Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova jumping rope, this commercial attempts to show the amount of work that goes into becoming a champion.The ad concludes with shots of the victorious athletes reaping the benefits of their hard work.  The use of high-profile athletes from 6 different countries and sports is also a brilliant marketing move that adds universal appeal.

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  • Javi

    Hi Ralph, nice job!!!

    i am from spain and i am looking for an ad that Nike made around 1988 and it is about some guys with their wheelchairs going trhough a road like it was the Tour de France or a bicycle race

    have you seen it? it is great, if you find it just let me know

    jpinesgil@yahoo:disqus .es

    thank you

  • ralphjp

    I have never heard of it. I researched it and couldn’t find it. It might be one of those commercials that have fell through the cracks in history. Sounds like a good one though!

  • John

    does anyone know the Nike commercial from c. 1994 featuring Brasilian soccer
    player Romario among others, with the quotes “and the more you run, the more you
    feel…. free”. I am keen to find this one, I find it fantastic! Please reply if
    you have any idea. john

  • annahaller

    All of these commercials gave me goose bumps! I have to say that Jordan’s was
    the best as it was short and to the point. Also coming from him speaks volumes
    because he is so well known and is an icon in his own right but we all have to
    remember we are all human and we can do anything that we put our minds to!

    Nike has such a powerful message not only in sports but in life!


  • marcial

    i am citing this for one of my papers, i would like to know when this was published for citation purposes. Thank you in advance!