David F. Kennedy, whose ad agency put Nike on the map, dies at 82

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He also served six years in the Marine Corps Reserves.

Mr. Kennedy met Kathleen Murphy in 1961 in Colorado through a fellowship brother who was dating his sister. They married in 1963, moved to Chicago, and had five children. He is survived by his wife; his daughters Cathlin, Erinn and Siobhan; and one son, Brendan. Another son, Ian, died in 2016.

In Chicago, Mr. Kennedy worked at agencies such as Young & Rubicam, Leo Burnett, Needham, and Benton & Bowles. But after more than 16 years in the city, he wanted to return to the west. In 1979 he was hired in Portland as art director for the then McCann-Erickson agency, where Mr. Wieden worked as a copywriter.

“Instead of quietly taking the Chicago Northwestern train to work, he was now driving an old Chevy pickup truck with Miles Davis or Flatt and Scruggs playing on the radio,” his daughter Erinn Kennedy said in an email.

Later, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Wieden moved to the William Cain agency, where they worked on advertising plywood for a lumber supplier and doing presentations for a small growing Beaverton company – Nike.

Feeling stifled by creativity, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Wieden set out on their own. They created Wieden + Kennedy from a union hall with a borrowed card table as a desk and used a pay phone down the hall. At one point, they were working in a restaurant, buying coffees to avoid being kicked out.

Nike was their first customer. Mr. Wieden’s father, who had run the Gerber advertising agency in Portland, helped them with the basics of running a business. He grew up quickly.

Much of Wieden + Kennedy’s success was linked to Nike and popular campaigns like “Bo Knows,” starring baseball and football player Bo Jackson, and “Mars and Mike,” starring filmmaker Spike Lee and basketball star Michael Jordan.


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