Nike's bullet ad with Pistorius backfires

PAN Media

This post is courtesy of Simon Rushton and originally appeared on CNN.

February 15, 2013

Tiger Woods' personal life went off the rails. Lance Armstrong's sporting image crashed in drugs. Both were sponsored by Nike in multi-million dollar deals.

Now Nike is being reminded again that pinning your company reputation on star names is a risky business.

This time it's Oscar Pistorius whose life has moved from sports headlines to the news pages to cause headaches at Nike headquarters.

Pistorius, known as the 'blade runner,' is the man Nike called a bullet and who is now charged with shooting his girlfriend.

With Pistorius, Nike had a star able to attract supporters to disabled athletics and who was so fast he could compete against able-bodied runners.

And Nike knew how to market that appeal -- with an ad in 2011 that showed the sprinter starting from blocks and the caption "I am the bullet in the chamber" together with Nike's "Just do it" slogan and logo.

Read: Pistorius - 'The bullet in the chamber'

Robbie Vorhaus, founder of Vorhaus & Company, which advises companies on maintaining their reputations, said there was a deep conversation taking place in marketing about how to avoid such advertising ricochets with forward thinking and less cliché.

He said: "Double entendres, sexual references and phrases that include violence are being looked at for exactly this reason. A bullet in the chamber still represents a gun and a gun represents a weapon."

Vorhaus said a brand hit by a scandal surrounding a sponsor approach should aim to move on.

"The problem is that so much money is pinned on human beings who in a moment of passion or intoxication, can ruin their reputation in an instant.

"It is not the responsibility of Nike to be a parent or rescue a person if they break the law.

"These athletes have certain qualities that a brand emulates but at the moment they are harming the brand ... they have to cut the association quickly and move on."

He added that there would be clauses in the Pistorius-Nike contract that make clear when the athlete's behavior can allow the company to cut its ties -- and law-breaking would often be among the reasons.

Continue reading at CNN...

PAN Recommended Content:

influencer marketing

Subscribe to our newsletter