The Story of the controversial 1987 Nike Commercial using the Beatles Song, REVOLUTION https://vimeo.com/89811766 is a huge part of our own legacy for having the format widely accepted as a professional medium.
Pro8mm has had a very long history of working on sports commercials with Nike over our 50 years, including ones with legends Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Our first and the most famous and controversial one was back in 1987. Shot on black and white Tri-X Super 8 film, processed by us when we were still Super8 Sound in Cambridge, MA, the Beatles sued Nike for unauthorized use of their music.
In doing my research on the back story, and as memory would have it ( yes, Phil and Rhonda owned the company all the way back then) , Nike wanted to create something unique that was part music video, part sports ad and part something never done before when they hired ad agency Wieden and Kennedy. The spot was directed by Peter Kagan and Paula Grief. At that time there were many available super 8 cameras around as consumers began to make the switch to VHS. The team got the idea to shoot on black and white super 8 film and use a pop hit instead of a jingle traditionally created for products or cheesy covers of songs. Nike paved the way for using real songs by real artists and this laid the foundation for their big marketing footprint (pun intended) and opened up the idea to other brands of using pop music by the real artists. The legacy continues today!
On March 26, 1987 during The Cosby Show, Nike first aired “Revolution,” which of course prompted a law suite by the Beatles to sue Nike. A 15 million dollar suite was filed even though Nike paid $500,000 to EMI-Capital and ATV Music to use the song "Revolution" by the Beatles. However the suit was not viable, as the Apple Record label could not be sued for use of the song because Michael Jackson owned the rights. He had successfully bid $47.5 million against Paul McCartney and others for ATV Music when it became available in 1985.
The commercial was initially met with some skepticism, but in the end, consumers and other brands loved it. Upscale department store BARNEY’s loved the concept so much, they soon followed suit with their own Super 8 Commercial for their 1987 Winter Sale.
Peter Kagan did other Super 8 work with Super8 Sound/ Pro8mm over his career, including the music video Higher Love in 1986 for Steve Winwood
For more info on this landmark Nike commercial Read: