Just Don’t Do It

Nike ExtremeI have long admired Nike for their ability to adeptly connect with their target audience(s) in a way few brands do these days. Their campaigns always seem to inspire athletes on every level, whether a marathoner, an NBA hopeful, or just a middle-age mom running a few miles a day.  This time though, Nike might have taken “just do it” a bit too far.

In an effort to connect with extreme sports fans like boarders, BMX’er’s, surfers, etc., Nike introduced a line of t-shirts featuring phrases such as *Dope*, *Get High*, and *Ride Pipe.*  While all of these phrases are part of the every day vernacular among action sports participants, and the phrases in this context do relate to the rush one gets from extreme sports, this kind of language seems to be less than supportive of the on-going drug abuse problem in this country and around the world.

The shirts caused such an uproar in Boston that Mayor Menino got involved and requested that Nike remove the shirts from their flagship Newbury Street window display. Nike did honor this request.

While Nike does a great job of continuously pushing the limits to become or stay relevant with athletes of all kinds, a little common sense and sensitivity might have been in order here. Nike has such broad appeal, people of all ages want to wear their stuff.  Clearly, a message with an indirect drug reference is not appropriate for younger kids to wear or see, as they may not understand the nuance of what Ride Pipe or Dope means in context of extreme sports.  For that matter, I am guessing a lot of ‘non-extreme sports’ folks wouldn’t understand the nuance either.

So, is this a W.T.F. Award Winner, Toss-up or Flop?  I would say Winner for Nike’s pushing of the envelope in their effort to connect with extreme sports fans but a bit of a flop in the execution.

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