We may not know Diddley, but we know what we like. Here, in order of preference, are our favorite Nike ads.
1) ”Bo Knows” (1989)
The most famous — and it deserves to be. Bo Jackson the baseball player smashes a pitch. ”Bo knows baseball,” L.A. Dodger Kirk Gibson says. Jackson the football player breaks several tackles. ”Bo knows football,” L.A. Ram Jim Everett says. So it goes, with Bo running, cycling, pumping iron, hitting a tennis ball — ”Bo knows tennis?” John McEnroe asks — and playing hockey — all L.A. King Wayne Gretzky will say is ”No.” All this to a driving Bo Diddley beat, which crashes to a halt when Jackson tries to play the guitar. ”Bo,” Diddley declares, ”you don’t know…” You know the rest.
All the best elements of the campaign are here: a pulse-pounding score, inspirational expenditures of energy, and self-mocking humor. (But did they really need to tack on that ”six months later” bit in the version showing Jackson playing sizzling guitar licks?)
2) ”Nooo-Bod-Eeee ” (1987)
An early installment of ”The Spike and Mike Show.” Mars Blackmon goes into a motor-mouth mantra about Michael Jordan’s power. (”Nobody can cover my main man, Michael Jordan .Nobody Nooo-Bod-Eeee ”) He goes on until you wonder when somebody will shut him up. Jordan does (gently but firmly) by putting a large hand over Mars’ mouth and saying, ”But it’s easy to cover Mars Blackmon.”
3) ”Cross-Training With Bo” (1988)
Mondays, Mr. Jackson goes biking. (”Now when is that Tour de France thing?”) Wednesdays, he plays basketball. (”Air Bo! I like the sound of that!”) Fridays, he goes running. (”Another day. Another hobby.”) In each, Bo’s swagger galvanizes. But the last one is the best because he makes himself part of the joke.
4) ”Walt Stack” (1988)
Stack, 80, says he runs 17 miles every morning (in the hilly San Francisco area, no less). ”People ask me how I keep my teeth from chattering in the wintertime,” Stack says as he trots over the Golden Gate Bridge. Pause. ”I leave ‘em in my locker.”
5) ”Walking the Dog” (1988)
Ads done from an animal’s perspective aren’t new. But this is the funniest: A dog is yanked from every hydrant he passes by his hard-walking owner. The best moment is when the dog hurdles a woman bent over her garden. (”Whew!” he says between huffs and puffs. ”Gotta lose some weight!”)