Just Do It // Anna Whitehouse

“Just Do It”

This is the slogan of Nike Inc., the multinational athletic apparel and shoe manufacturer, that we all recognize by its name, campaign, and “swoosh” logo. This slogan, first coined in 1988, was a part of the “Revolution” campaign featuring Bo Jackson, the legendary All-Star athlete in both major league baseball and football. Since its first advertisements the “Just Do It” campaign has persisted as the motto for the company and its consumers (“History & Heritage”).

Originally, Nike apparel was exclusively worn for the purpose of exercising, practicing, and performing in sports. What was the need for a new pair of high-performance running shoes if only to use them for everyday use? Yet, today it’s unlikely you wouldn’t see at least one person sporting the Nike swoosh going about their daily routine. Indeed, Nike Inc. became so popular from the famously successful “Just Do It” campaign in 1989, that the company regained its position as the industry leader and has never relinquished its position since (“History & Heritage”).

The phrase “Just Do It” is characterized as “broad yet empowering” to the audience of its advertisements by Nike; however, the phrase is now the very concrete representation of consumerism culture in America (“History & Heritage”). Though many see the slogan as an inspiration to start and continue living a healthy lifestyle by exercising, I have come to realize there is another meaning to be applied to the phrase: continue spending; keep consuming; don’t settle for what you have; it’s worth what you are paying for; just buy the product; just do it. The very simple message brought to millions worldwide by Nike implies that to work out and be a top-performing athlete you must have the gear that they have made. This is simply untrue. The truth is these large corporations, such as Nike Inc., have such a stronghold over our culture, that it has created an oligarchical system in which the “Fortune 500” companies control what information consumers know about the products and services they provide.

Why do I think this?

As a part of the core curriculum at Santa Clara University, where I have just completed my freshman year, students are required to take a Critical Thinking and Writing (CTW) course for two quarters. In complying with our course theme of “Food, Self and Culture” and “Human, Animal, Machine”, we read and analyzed texts regarding factory farming, a staple in our food industry that I was formerly unaware about. We read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, a novelist who researched extensively about the food industry in America and especially the prevalence of factory farms (Foer). What I have come to understand about how the food industry treats its customers is they have all adopted a “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” attitude. In my research for essays I have written about GMO labeling, over-the-counter medications versus homemade medicinal remedies, and the music industry, I have concluded that this theme of secrecy from corporations is present across the board in American culture.

Let me explain

As a native to Washington State, I was well aware of the controversy regarding the legislation surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMO) last November. Since this topic was in the realm of our CTW course, I decided to research further into the topic. What I found was quite shocking. A coalition of large food corporations brought together to form the General Manufacturers Association (GMA) took a particular interest in the vote on GMO labels. In lobbying for the rejection of Initiative 522, which would require GMO labels in grocery stores, the GMA was sued by the Washington State Attorney General. The GMA was accused of violating disclosure laws when it contributed more than $11 million to “No on 522” while not naming the companies that donated the money (Cohen).  Once released it was found that big businesses were almost exclusively the donors for the “No on 522”, including Pepsi Co. and The J.M. Smucker Company to name only a couple (“Cash Contributions…”). It was apparent that the GMA was attempting to hide the big businesses who opposed the labelling of GMO food in fear of their yearly profits dwindling.

At Santa Clara University, I am a Biology major interested in pursuing a career in the health field. This led me to another topic for research in my CTW course: the use of over-the-counter medications. My paper argued the benefits of eating chicken noodle soup as a valid medical remedy instead of immediately turning to pills to ease discomfort from the common cold. Many know that chicken noodle soup can help people feel better while they are sick, but not everyone realizes the extent to which the soup aids in a quick recovery.

Studies have shown that chicken noodle soup chemically provides support to the immune system, such as a study performed by Dr. Stephen Rennard, a physician and researcher at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. His study found that chicken noodle soup “significantly inhibited neutrophil migration and did so in a concentration-dependent manner” (Rennard). Basically, this finding suggests that chicken noodle soup supports the immune system by concentrating the defense of neutrophils (white blood cells) to the area of viral infection. The neutrophils destroy the invading bacteria and provide a quicker recovery.

My point is, there is an alternative to popping the pills that are constantly being advertised on television. If you listen to the fast-talking advertisers promoting cold medicines, there is a lot of damage that can be done to your body if you’re not careful. Too much Advil causes bleeding in the stomach and taking NyQuil results in severe drowsiness that is too dangerous to drive under the effect (ScienceDaily). This doesn’t stop the companies advertising their products as a miracle pill, which will improve your life tenfold, when really they can’t know for sure if the drug will even take effect for every patient. Realizing there is a better option allows for the independence from medications, and therefore the pill companies.

Once again we find ourselves confined by big businesses when we focus on the music production industry. There used to be no alternative for musicians looking to make it as a successful musician. The focus was to find a record label that would produce their album, in hopes of the producers helping spread the music to listeners. If sacrifices had to be made by cutting songs, changing lyrics, or rebranding the entire act, musicians would do it to ensure its success. The record label controls what the artist produces.

In a sample record label contract found online from the American Bar Association, it is clear that the record label companies retain the rights over any work the artist produces in their studio. The contract states “[t]he music tracks that the artist has recorded with the record company will be retained by the record company and will be the property of the record company in perpetuity” (“Sample Artist…”). The business will own the music that a human being has created. However, indie (independent) artists are challenging this system by producing their own music online, and avoiding the middle man of the corporate record labels.

Going indie is challenging the system run by the big production companies. The most notable hip-hop and rap independent artists today are Ben Haggerty (aka Macklemore) and Ryan Lewis, who won four Grammy’s in 2013 including Best New Artist and Best Rap Album after producing, publishing and distributing their album, The Heist, without a record label contract (“Macklemore and Ryan Lewis”). The success of independent artists creates for a new way of thinking about the alternative possibilities of doing things yourself, without having to rely on these conglomerate businesses.

So What?

Alright you get it, companies want to sell their products. What’s so wrong about that? That’s just capitalism, a system that America has always run on and been proud of. While I admit nothing is wrong about wanting to sell a product, we have all been suckered into a culture of consumerism. Nowadays, we consume and advertise these companies without having a second thought about it. Brand names boast huge logos on the front of people’s shirts, and casual bikers sport sponsored cycling gear just as a professional cyclist would. No one bats an eye upon seeing that famous slogan “Just Do It” printed across a tee shirt. I don’t believe this is an inherently bad thing, but this brand name culture is so ingrained that we aren’t even aware of its presence anymore.

David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water” is an excerpt of a commencement speech he gave to graduating seniors. In his speech, there is a call to become more aware of what is happening around you, rather than live in that bubbled sphere of your “natural default setting” in which you believe you are the center of the universe (This is Water). I believe the awareness of how our culture is influenced by the secrecy of corporations is something we should all examine. Before my research, I certainly never thought about just how dependent our society is on the big corporations when it comes to food, health, and even our self-expression in culture. Having the awareness of the truth allows for one to make the choice of what to do or not do about the nation’s reliance on big businesses.


“Cash Contributions For: GROCERY MANUFACTURERS ASSN AGAINST I-522.” Public Disclosure Commision. PDC, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013

Cohen, Bryan. “Washington AG Reports Progress on Lawsuit against Grocers Group.” Legal Newsline. Legal Newsline Legal Journal, 10 Nov. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.

“History & Heritage.” NIKE, Inc. -. NIKE, n.d. Web. 07 June 2014. <http://nikeinc.com/pages/history-heritage>.

Rennard, Stephen I., MD, FCCP, Richard A. Robbins, MD, FCCP, Gail S. Gossman, BS, Ronald F. Ertl, BS, and Barbara O. Rennard, BA. “Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro.” UNMC. UNMC Public Relations, 2000. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

“Sample Artist Recording Contract”. New York: Street & Smith, 2010. Web. 4 June 2014. <http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/2011_build/entertainment_sports/artist_recording_contract.authcheckdam.pdf&gt;.

ScienceDaily “High Doses Of Ibuprofen Cause Significant GI Bleeding, Despite Safety Profile.”ScienceDaily. 01 Nov. 2005. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.

This Is Water. Dir. Matthew Freidell. Prod. Allie Dunning and Jeremy Dunning. By David Foster Wallace. Youtube. N.p., 30 Oct. 2013. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKYJVV7HuZw&gt;.


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