Since then it's become one of the most recognizable campaigns.
Dan Wieden, the ad-executive who came up with the slogan, told Dezeen Magazine he got the idea from Gary Gilmore - a murderer from Portland, Oregon where Nike's headquarters is located today.
Gilmore was sentenced to death by firing squad after murdering two men in Utah in 1976. Just before his execution in 1977, he uttered the words "Let's do it."
Wieden says the night before a big meeting, he tried to come up with a simple tag-line that could also reach across multiple platforms. He made a simple change to Gilmore's last words and "Just Do It" was born.
After explaining Gilmore's story he said, "For some reason I went: 'Now damn. How do you do that? How do you ask for an ultimate challenge that you are probably going to lose, but you call it in?' ...
I showed it to some of the folks in the agency before we went to present to Nike and they said 'We don't need that s--t'. I went to Nike and [Nike co-founder] Phil Knight said, 'We don't need that s--t'. I said 'Just trust me on this one.'"
Wieden said in a 2009 documentary called Art & Copy that when the slogan hit the public, death was the last thing on people's minds.
Nike sponsored athletes
Nike's 'Just Do It' slogan inspired by convicted killer
NEW YORK - JANUARY 09: Nike Silver Speed Collection is arrayed at the 2014 NFL Nike Silver Speed Collection Unveiling For Super Bowl XLVIII at Skylight Modern on January 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Peyton/Getty Images for Nike)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: Former American soccer pro Jim Keady sits in front of a sign playing on footwear giant Nike's 'Just Do It' slogan after Keady spent a month living in Indonesia trying to live on the wage of a Nike's workers wage of USD 1.14 per day in Sydney 04 September 2000. The move is designed to embarrass Nike, who is a major sponsor of the upcoming Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, into providing better working conditions and pay for workers producing Nike goods. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/William WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 21: A detail of Nike shirts worn by the Arizona Wildcats prior to their game against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Moda Center on March 21, 2015 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: General atmosphere of the Nike Zoom City Classic basketball tournament featuring their LED court at Nike Zoom Arena on February 12, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - DECEMBER 06: General view of a Nike warm up shirt worn by a Syracuse Orange player prior to the game against the St. John's Red Storm at the Carrier Dome on December 6, 2014 in Syracuse, New York. St. John's defeated Syracuse 69-57. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)