No matter your profession or background, it’s likely that, if asked about companies with a strong brand and marketing strategy, Nike would appear on your top 5 list. Their famous Nike swoosh is the most memorable logo worldwide, and with names like Michael Jordan, Serena Williams and Spike Lee proudly sporting “Just Do It” labels, we’d be willing to bet that Nike may even be the first company to come to your mind when questioned.
That being said, even this global, sportswear powerhouse isn’t immune to bad press. Let us set the scene for you.
At 7 p.m. on October 17, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics were set to be the tip-off of NBA’s 2017-2018 season. Sports fans and non-fans alike could feel the tension as two of basketball’s biggest stars and Nike’s biggest names, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, faced off in their first game as opponents. To make it an even bigger night, after a decade-long Adidas partnership, this game marked the premiere of Nike as the exclusive outfitter of the National Basketball Association. To say that this night was “important,” would be a tremendous understatement.
Unfortunately for Nike, things didn’t quite go the way they surely anticipated. With all eyes on LeBron in the fourth quarter of a nail-biting game, Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown grabbed a handful of LeBron’s jersey. In the NBA, grabbing jersey is a pretty common defensive strategy, so no eyebrows raised until the moment when LeBron James’ highly-broadcasted and hyped-up jersey ripped in two. Straight down the middle, between his now-famed number 23, stood a roughly foot and a half-long rip that screamed “poor quality.”
Dang Jaylen! These Nike jerseys may not be game ready! 😂🤣😂 RIP to Lebron’s jersey! pic.twitter.com/uhasNYjJ1V
— Cedric M. Bullock (@jordan23ww) October 18, 2017
It was the perfect storm. Instantly, fans, celebrities and sports analysts alike took to the internet to comment on the cringe-worthy incident. And they weren’t shy about reminding the worldwide web that this was not the first time Nike has had such an issue. *Cue the pitying looks*
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) October 1, 2017
This is where we, as a marketing and branding team, have some bones to pick with Nike. It’s ideal to have a seemingly never-ending marketing budget where you can throw star-studded jersey launch parties to announce your new NBA partnership. Ultimately though, your products and services should be further advertisements of your company, because as we saw on October 17, no matter how well-executed and anticipated your marketing strategy may be, your product needs to back that up.