Before O.J. Simpson became most well known for the 1994 trial in which he was found not guilty of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, the former football star was famous for many other things. After he retired from the NFL in 1979, the Hall of Famer pursued acting and business ventures, including becoming a spokesperson for Hertz Rental Cars in the '70s and '80s. And there are still plenty of videos of O.J. Simpson's Hertz commercials floating around YouTube, which you can explore as the topic comes up in ESPN's O.J.: Made in America. In 2016, celebrity and pro athlete endorsements are pretty ubiquitous, but back in the '70s, a pro athlete and a person of color being a spokesperson was very rare, according to Inverse.
Simpson's iconic first commercial with Hertz shows him running through the airport to make sure he lands the rental car of his dreams. The tagline of the commercials was "The Superstar in a rent-a-car." According to the Washington Post, Hertz tapped Simpson to be their spokesman in 1975, when they wanted to emphasize the speed of their service to their audience of primarily white businessmen. The former running back was known for his speed on the football field, so the car company decided to see how an ad campaign would do — and even had a back-up ready, in case it flopped. But there was no need — the Washington Post reported that the commercials increased Hertz's sales and Simpson remained the spokesperson until his 1994 trial.
Check out Simpson's Hertz commercials throughout the years below.
1. The Superstar Jingle (1977)
One of the commercials that started it all. Simpson runs through the airport in a business suit as a jingle plays.
2. When You Need A Rental Car Fast (1978)
What does slo-mo hair-flipping and running have to do with rental cars? It's all in the name of getting a car and getting out of the airport fast.
3. Simpson's Dream Rental Cars (1978)
Simpson runs slo-mo through the airport in a business suit and talks about renting some old school dream cars.
4. "Go, O.J., Go!" (1970s)
In the above ad, Simpson explains just how speedy Hertz is as he races through the airport, jumps over rails, and gets cheered on by an elderly woman.
5. With Super Speed (1978)
This time around, a jingle serenades Simpson as he runs and a girl scout troop yells, "Go, O.J., go!"
6. Renting Trucks (1979)
This ad takes Simpson out of the airport and puts him in front of a green screen, where a terrifying yellow truck sneaks up behind him. It's all because Hertz wanted to let you know that you could rent a giant yellow moving truck from them.
7. Express Flying (1980)
Here's some more terrifying and weird green screen effects. Simpson flies through the airport thanks to visual effects as he describes Hertz's new express service.
8. On Vacation With Arnold Palmer (1984)
In the '80s, Hertz paired Simpson with golfer Arnold Palmer (yes, the drink is named after him). In the ad, they sit at a bar, chatting about Hertz. They start arguing about what's better about the car company: Their reliability or affordability. I'd call it a draw.
9. Simpson & Palmer Around The Country (1980s)
In the clip above, the football player and the golfer try to one-up each other with their Hertz deals on their respective fun vacations.
10. Simpson & Palmer's Free Gifts (1980s)
The competition between these two continues, as they try to one-up each others' free gifts for renting a car. Notice that the slogan has changed to "No. 1 for everyone."
11. Jamie Lee Curtis Knows Her Cars (1988)
The above ad does a funny job of subverting stereotypes about women, men, and cars. Curtis tells viewers about her extensive knowledge about a car and its specs, while Simpson and Palmer share how many doors their cars have and the respective rental prices at Hertz. Advantage, Jamie Lee.
12. Computer Return (1992)
Simpson describes Hertz's brand new computer return system and how it's going to get you out of waiting in rental car rush hour. Yup, computers can do that. The ad includes a cameo from an old school handheld computer with many buttons. Oh, the '90s.
13. Gold Service (1993)
Want your car even faster? In above commercial, Simpson describes Hertz's No. 1 Gold Service, which includes having car ready fast and having your name in lights.
It's weird to think that there was a time when these commercials were staples on TV and most people associated Simpson with speed.
Image: M. Osterreicher/Courtesy of ESPN Films