You may have never heard of Jim Riswold before, but you’re certainly familiar with his work. Riswold was a copywriter at Portland-based ad agency Wieden & Kennedy when they landed the Nike account, and he was responsible for some of the most memorable Nike campaigns ever. Griffey ‘96? That was Riswold. Lil Penny? Ditto. But the most memorable of them all? Linking Michael Jordan with Mars Blackmon, his biggest fan, in a series of black-and-white commercials now just known as “Spike and Mike.” Spike and Mike started in 1987 and have outlasted most relationships. And, if Spike has his way, the relationship hasn’t ended yet.
She’s Gotta Have It not only introduced the world to Mars Blackmon, it introduced Blackmon to Nike (and Jordan) via Riswold. It’s a story he’s told “43,291,019 times,” as Riswold says in an e-mail. But the story he tells is so compelling, it’s worth hearing again and again. Riswold has since left Wieden & Kennedy, fought cancer, established himself as an artist, and wrote a book. But the memories remain as fresh as they were when they shot the very first spot on Riswold’s 30th birthday, 30 years ago today.
We’ll let Jim take it from here.
Spike and Mike may be the single luckiest thing that ever happened to me in my career.
Bill Davenport and I were in Los Angeles editing our first Jordan spot. It was pretty much standard fare for a Nike spot circa 1987: show the athlete being the athlete and have Pytka shoot it. Anyway, during some downtime we went and saw a fairly dreadful movie called About Last Night. The movie was a complete waste of celluloid, save for a trailer for some movie we never heard of called She’s Gotta Have It from some filmmaker we never heard of named Spike Lee.
Long story short as possible: Davenport and I go see the movie in Portland. There’s a character in the movie named Mars Blackmon who so loves the man Air Jordan and the shoes Air Jordans, when he has the chance to sleep with the…