Nike: just don’t do it!

Twitter/Colin Kaepernick

Manufacturers of sports apparel, whether it be shirts, shorts, leisure wear, trainers, running shoes, Hoodies & Sweatshirts,  Jackets & Gilets, Trousers & Tights or Tracksuits: have to be very aware of two things when marketing their products: does the product do its job, and is the sports ‘star’ or ‘celebrity’ associated with, or fronting that marketing campaign for their product likely to promote warm feelings towards the maker, the owner of the trade mark; the one thing by which the manufacturer is associated with.

Marketing is almost a separate entity when it comes to selling your wares on the open market; the entrepeneur or sales director might know everything about how his products are made, what the cost-per-item is, and whether the product suits the buyer from a viewpoint of ‘what’s cool, bro?’, or gets feedback from ordinary people buying that particular product. Industry has to be so careful of the ‘image’, projected by the person or ‘personality’, because the image of ‘I’m wearing a ‘XXXX’ watch on my wrist’; and by projection, maybe the prospective buyer will be wooed into spending a large lump of his available ‘wonga’ on a similar timepiece in the faint but possibly illusory hope that he too, like the watch-wearing personality, will be rich, famous and excelling at golf / football / running / swimming / acting or whatever. Alternatively, if the viewer sees a sportsman wearing the brand in question, and also see that same sportsman or actor succeeding, the idea maybe to get that same viewer to get off his fat behind, and get active, all whilst wearing the brand of trainer, or tracksuit, or whatever is being advertised.

But I write today about one specific, very famous manufacturer of trainers, shoes and all the other gear in the shopping list available both online, and in stores all across the globe. The name? Nike. The image? Clean-cut, healthy, combative, striving to do better: you must get the idea. The listings of individuals, clubs and companies associated with this global giant encompass 12 pages on Wikipedia. Their hold and breadth of sporting and exercise equipment is without parallel; truly a monster in international corporate terms. Many companies would consider the sacrifice of their first-born just to steal a slice of Nike’s grip on things ‘exercise’. And who can blame them? The Nike ‘Swoosh’ is known and Nike: just don’t do it!acknowledged worldwide as one of the truly global ‘brands’, and Nike have made very few errors in terms of their association with ‘celebrities’ and instantly-recognisable names. There was a small tremor when the Penn State College sexual abuse scandal erupted, which saw Joe Paterno named as a co-conspirator along with convicted Jerry Sandusky, who got 30-60 years in jail. Paterno died before the trial, but Nike, who had named their ‘child care facility’ after Paterno; only hastily removed Paterno’s name after former FBI director Louis Freeh’s damning report emerged. Another small spike in the Nike freeway emerged when they withdrew their sponsorship from Oscar Pistorius, possibly because he was indicted for murder.

NIke must have been breathing huge sighs of relief that they hadn’t signed sponsorship deals with the footballer Ryan Giggs as Reebok had: as it emerged, through the veil of injunctions, counter-claims and injured innocence; that he, despite having a stunner wife on his arm (hence the family man image) that he had affairs with various whores as well as an eight-year relationship with his brother’s wife.

Nike also had to wend their way through the assault organised by, amongst others, FashionUnited who pushed for a larger slice of the huge cash pile to go towards the rock-bottom wages earned by the people who sew the shirts, trainers, etc. Critics asked that

“knowing that the labor cost of a t-shirt produced in Indonesia is hardly 1 percent of the price, it seems logical to me that the labor cost can be increased a bit, right?”

was returned with a backhand reply to the effect that NIke always hoped that suppliers paid the ‘living wage’ and more, wherever the item was made.

But the latest news just down the turnpike is the signing by Nike of Colin Kaepernick, he of the large hair, the even larger opinion of himself; and the tumult caused by his kneeling during the National Anthem and Flag ceremonies at various American football games across the continent. Ostracised by the owners of every club, he has not played for over a year, but that doesn’t mean he has been out of the headlines. His ‘knee’ antics generated a huge pile of outrage at his lack of patriotism, especially towards the American Flag, revered almost as a religious artefact by many. Almost as high as the original pile was the flood of supporting comments, many agreeing with his outbursts and silent objections to the Flag which represented, as he saw it, the injustice done to fellow African Americans.

But the big question is, as far as can be observed, is whether Nike, in signing up Colin Kaepernick to front their 30th Anniversary logo and marketing push, haven’t shot themselves in both feet simultaneously, as, by bringing such a divisive person and personality into front-centre stage; seeing as he has (virtually) insulted and trampled all over the one thing which Americans have revered since the founding of the Republic. The Flag, along with that amazing theme which was the product of a mixture of a British drinking song, along with the verses penned by Frances Scott Keys to celebrate the defiant victory of an American defence of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry after a huge bombardment by the British, has retained the awe and reverence due the symbol of freedom which it undoubtedly has become. Has Nike made a mistake raising an anarchist onto its stage? Only time will tell.

For myself, I would have thought that Nike would have been better served if they had featured Alejandro Villanueva, who took an alternative viewpoint when saluting the Flag!