Dan Wieden and Dave Kennedy met while working at the William Cain advertising agency in the early ’80s. The duo, which had been working together on the Nike account, went on to form their own firm on April, 1, 1982, and took that client with them. The pairing went on to define what’s possible in terms of sports marketing, while creating ads as memorable as the athletic feats they were advertising. In honor of the 34th anniversary, we’re taking a look at the top 10 spots in the history of their partnership.
The 10 Best Wieden+Kennedy Nike Ads
In honor of the firm's 34th anniversary.
10. "What Should I Do?"
Many Wieden+Kennedy campaigns have a playful tone, but LeBron’s first post-Decision ad struck a unique chord. Facing the harshest criticism of his career, and heavy backlash from his choice to leave Cleveland, the refreshingly honest spot saw James questioning people’s expectations of him. It may not have had the longevity of “The LeBrons,” or the popularity of the “MVPuppets,” but its timeliness and impact made it the most powerful spot of James’ career. -Zac Dubasik
Launched during All-Star Weekend 2001, “Freestyle” was a rhythmic ode to the game of basketball that showcased ballers on both the street and professional levels. The soundtrack, comprised of dribbles and sneaker squeaks, enhanced the artful displays of handles and helped make this spot the defining clip of early-2000s Nike Basketball. -Brandon Richard
The most successful Nike technologies have a visual element to them. Nike Air didn't make sense to consumers until Tinker Hatfield made it visible with Air Max. Nike Flyknit took off in part because it was immediately eye-catching and recognizable. This W+K spot helped established Nike's springy Shox tech by adding a dimension of sound as well, attaching a cartoony effect to every step taken in the shoes. Also included in the campaign was a riff on The Electric Company and a spot with Gary Payton and Vince Carter showing off the shoes. -Brendan Dunne
7. "Frozen Moment"
Frozen Moment was ahead of it's time. One of the best things about this cinematic spot, that plays upon the suspension of time while witnessing a Michael Jordan highlight, is that it's not overtly about a pair sneakers. It simply and beautifully ends with a static Jumpman logo, as if to say: "You know who this is and what he does." -Gerald Flores
6. "I Got This"
The Black Mamba's on-court career is filled with superhuman moments. He earned a highlight in a different arena when he casually hopped over a speeding Aston Martin despite Ronny Turiaf's protesting. The clip is bookended with the product push: the first Nike Hyperdunk, which he puts front and center at the start and mentions at the end. Nike followed up on this stunt a few years later with an Aston Martin-themed two-pack of shoes. -Brendan Dunne
Despite the fact that Michael Jordan has always been, and still remains, synonymous with success, this W+K spot goes in a completely different direction by highlighting MJ's failures. Instead of recounting all of his accolades and achievements, the man considered the best player of all-time details his many failures which include the amount of shots he's missed, the amount of games he's lost, and more. In true MJ fashion, he turns his failures into success at the end of the spot. -Rich Maze Lopez
4. "I Am Not A Role Model"
Flying in the face of the expected from celebrity endorsers, Charles Barkley explains that he is not paid to be a role model, he is paid to be a basketball player. And despite the fact that he is a worldwide icon that children look up to, he is not here to parent your children, he's here to "wreak havoc on the basketball court." The genius part about this spot is that it followed a controversial moment in Barkley's career when he tried to spit on a heckler during a game. -Rich Maze Lopez
3. "Lil' Penny"
Michael Jordan’s brief first retirement made room for fresh faces in the NBA, including the Orlando Magic’s Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. The versatile combo guard commanded attention on the court, but it was a groundbreaking W+K campaign that made him one of the biggest stars of the ’90s. Voiced by Chris Rock, Lil’ Penny was a loud-mouthed mini version of Hardaway who acted as his companion in a series of unforgettable commercials. The doll’s brash personality was a necessary contrast to Hardaway’s calm demeanor and provided him with a voice in a market that he may have not had otherwise. This spot in particular riffs off of another classic W+K spot and features a cameo from Tyra Banks. -Brandon Richard
2. "Bo Knows"
Bo Jackson may have known seemingly everything, but thanks to this late-‘80s spot, the world knows Bo—even almost 30 years later. The campaign played off Jackson’s dual-professional sport career, speculating on how many other activities he could excel at, from tennis to hockey to even a basketball endorsement from MJ. The only thing that could stop Bo was a cameo by the late blues guitarist Bo Diddley. To this day, “KNOWS” graphics are commonplace in pop culture. -Zac Dubasik
1. "Mars Blackmon"
Spike Lee's Mars Blackmon character first started hawking Air Jordan sneakers for Nike in 1987, but the black and white commercials really hit their stride with "Is It the Shoes?" for the Air Jordan 5. By 1990, Michael Jordan was already a perennial All-Star, All-NBA First Team player, league-leading scorer, and Defensive Player of the Year Award winner. His signature sneaker line was also evolving into something no one had seen before, which made the question "Is it the shoes?" more relevant than ever. -Gerald Flores