Cursed or not, Nike's major World Cup stars wrote a lousy future

By Noreen O'Leary on Mon Jul 12 2010

So, now that the World Cup is over, let's flashback to the beginning, when we were all mesmerized by Nike's awesome "Write the Future" ad from Wieden + Kennedy. The three-minute creative epoch, which canonized some of soccer's biggest names, explored the fine line between footballer glory and failure. So, on which side of that line did these highly paid guys land? Mostly failure. After England crashed out against Germany, lethargic striker Wayne Rooney didn't retreat to a dingy caravan; he flew to his $7.5 million seaside mansion in Barbados. Far from the debonair, tuxedo-clad Ping Pong player who trounces Roger Federer in the commercial, he's just been voted the ugliest footballer on the planet. As for Portugal's reigning stud, Cristiano Ronaldo, he's had to settle for a mini-me rather than a towering statue in the center of Lisbon after his side was defeated by Spain. Ronaldo, who's been exploring his feminine side through tweets about his new son born of a surrogate mother, has also been spotted poolside in New York with dainty, lacquered toenails. Italy's Fabio Cannavaro returned home to a barrage of rotten vegetables, not TV-show serenades, after the previous World Cup holders couldn't even advance out of the group stage. Ditto for Franck Ribéry, whom Nike used to taunt Rooney as a replacement ad pin-up in the spot, after France's shambolic performance caused them to also exit at the group stage. As for Brazil's Ronaldinho, he never even got to South Africa, let alone inspire a craze for "Samba-robics" modeled after his own victory dance. In the view of some observers, Nike's roster of superstars are so incapable of writing their own future, they're firmly in the grip of a brand curse.

Michael Jordan's son takes brand loyalty to disturbing new level

Posted on Fri Nov 6 2009


Michael Jordan may have been the greatest basketball player of all time, but clearly he's not going to win any parenting awards. Apparently, he never instilled the virtue of selflessness into his son Marcus. Marcus Jordan, a basketball player at the University of Central Florida, cost the school a reported $3 million because he violated the team's endorsement contract with Adidas. Under the terms of the agreement, the players on all the school's teams were to exclusively wear Adidas shoes, apparel and equipment through 2015. And the school was reportedly working to extend the contract even further. That was, of course, until the freshman Marcus decided to wear Nike Air Jordans during the Knights victory over St. Leo University in an exhibition game on Thursday night. He'd made his intentions clear earlier, and didn't budge. Adidas subsequently pulled out of the deal because the school violated its contract, per reports. What's disappointing is that one player cost an entire school some valuable funding that you would assume would be going to education. Plus, all of his teammates held up their part of the deal by wearing Adidas shoes. So, this means Jordan's kid thinks he is bigger than the team and the university. I realize he's got some big shoes to fill, but this is the wrong way to go about it.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

Sneaker makers now filling shoeboxes with more than just shoes

Posted on Thu Oct 22 2009


It used to be that you'd buy a pair of sneakers, put them on and throw out the box, and that would be it. OK, you might keep the box around for a while to store your baseball cards in, but there was nothing useful in the box itself except the shoes. Lately, though, sneaker makers seems to be learning from cereal companies like Kellogg and General Mills and are including a prize inside. New Balance, for instance, last month put a Polaroid of its sneaker inside every box of ultra-exclusive 574 Clips (only 480 pairs were made). On the backs of those pictures was a code where owners could go online to "claim" video footage of their exact pair of shoes, filmed at the factory or elsewhere. Now, Nike has done something similar this month with its CTR360 soccer boot. Each box contains not only a pair of the boots, but a unique code that the new owner can enter online to get coaching instruction from Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal and Andrés Iniesta of FC Barcelona, among others. While the online angle is fresh, the sneaker industry is actually catching up to Cracker Jack, which began putting prizes in its boxes in 1912.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Nike's latest hunt for talent leads to British rapper Dizzee Rascal

Posted on Fri Sep 18 2009

Nike, always on the lookout for the next hip artist or athlete, has paired with Dizzee Rascal for a limited-edition Nike Air Max 90 Tongue N' Cheek sneaker. For those unfamiliar, Dizzee is a British rapper. The "Tongue N' Cheek" in the shoe's name refers to his next studio album, due out Monday. The shoes are in limited release in the U.K., but the move may get Nike some props here as well—Rolling Stone named Dizzee's 2004 album Boy in da Corner one of the top 50 albums that year, and he's a critics' darling at Pitchfork, which noted that "shoe companies have realized that sneaker dorks and rap dorks are, more often than not, the exact same people."

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Nike crushes Converse in a battle of skateboarder commercials

Posted on Wed Jul 29 2009

Since Converse's attempt to co-opt skateboard rebellion flat-out sucked, Nike decided to take a shot at it for Paul Rodriguez's third shoe. The results are better than expected. Setting fairly inoffensive street skating to "Today Was a Good Day" is the most laughably white creative decision I've ever seen, but the spot is saved by Ice Cube playing the Mr. Wilson role and running over Paul's board. There's also a Web-exclusive extended version of this spot in the works—it premieres on Nike's Web site on Friday. No idea what they could possibly extend here, but maybe they'll explore Rodriguez's passing resemblance to Adrian Grenier, or have grumpy old Ice Cube run over more of his possessions. But all nitpicking aside, the shoes themselves were worked into the spot pretty well, and the synchronization between the tricks and the song's lyrics was clever (particularly that "hit the switch" moment). At the very least, Nike comes out looking somewhat knowledgeable about skateboarding.

—Posted by David Kiefaber

How do they get any work done over at Nike headquarters?

Posted on Fri Jul 10 2009

Nike's headquarters seem to be almost as wacky as ESPN's. There's so much going on in this ad that it's hard at first blush to tell what it's promoting. The ad, which was released on July 6 and is already up to 68,000 views on YouTube, features St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson at Nike headquarters, who is getting a tutorial on a new shoe when all of the sudden, snowboarders Matt Ladley and Trevor Jacob storm in with t-shirt guns that appear to have the ability to spew out t-shirts that instantly garb the victim of the shooting. So, the ad seems to ostensibly be promoting new Nike t-shirts, including one with the Nike swoosh arranged in a pinwheel formation. But read comments about the ad and most people appear to be interested in the t-shirt gun, which goes for $1,500. That gun, which reminds me of something from the horribly excellent movie Demolition Man, steals the thunder of the new design, which was supposed to be the focus of the ad. If the gun works as advertised, it might be worth the cash.

—Posted by Elana Glowatz

Leroy Smith is ready to be showered with praise and adulation

Posted on Fri Jun 5 2009

Charlie Murphy, the older brother of actor Eddie Murphy, is back on the radar for what much of the blogosphere speculates is an NBA Finals campaign from Nike. In this video, Murphy—playing a character named Leroy Smith—is introduced as "the man who motivated Michael Jordan." A newscaster proclaims that when Michael Jordan is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, Smith should be, too. There's an entire Web site,, dedicated to Smith and his feat to get inducted into the Hall of Fame for his "superhuman contributions to the game." On the site, you can view more videos, check out Smith's "Basketball On" DVD series, visit his online store (where everything happens to be sold out), play a video game and even download an iPhone app that let's you "motivize." After watching this loudmouth with an outdated fashion sense, you're left with a lasting impression and tears in your eyes from laughing so hard.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

LeBron may be a bit too excited about the playoffs in Nike ads

Posted on Mon May 18 2009

Is Nike trying to tell basketball fans something in its humorous new ads for the 2009 NBA playoffs? Let's see ... the spot features two puppets that represent an overly excited LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and a very cool, calm and collected Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron circles Kobe like a hyper child looking for attention, yelling: "Postseason, Kobe Bryant, get excited! Chosen one! Ohio, baby!" Kobe monotonously brushes LeBron off, saying he is excited, as he walks into a cloud of chalk created by LeBron (a reference to the latter's tradition of rubbing chalk on his hands before each game). LeBron goes on shouting "Playoffs, baby!" and random things like "$20 Chinese food! Make some noise, Kobe! Beef and broccoli!" That's when viewers get reminded that this is indeed a Nike commercial, as LeBron's puppet is shown wearing branded sneakers. The entire time, Kobe is disinterested in what's going on—I'm assuming because he has already won three NBA championships—until he finds himself sitting in piles of chalk at the end. Meanwhile, the only thing missing from this being a perfect year for LeBron is the championship ring. Perhaps Nike is implying that a pair of good sneakers could help him get it.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

Nike lets it all hang out in new 'Bear Butte Running Club' video

Posted on Wed Apr 22 2009

Turn off the video, and it sounds like a typical boring documentary on running. But with the pictures, whoa Nellie! It's like that Saturday Night Live skit with Rob Schneider, the Sensitive Naked Man, in which the character seems oblivious to the fact that he's nude and that that might be a problem for some of us. In this Nike clip, everyone at the Bear Butte Running Club is buck naked, but no one seems to notice. Instead, they talk in a rather deadpan manner about "really getting back to basics" and "natural running." Somehow, Nike persuaded runners like David Olds and Lauren Fleshman (yes, that's her real name) to go au naturale for the sake of a few laughs. In case you don't get the joke, a clothed Nike pitchwoman shows up late in the video and describes the company's Nike Free 5.0 shoes as "completely naked ... uh, natural" and then turns all sorts of colors when a runner (whose privates are obscured by the shoe in an angle from her point of view) asks if they come in a size 15. The video reveals the naked truth about Nike: The company isn't as humorless as many of us thought.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Nike founder Phil Knight gives moviemaking a try with 'Coraline'

Posted on Fri Jan 30 2009

Go see Coraline. Just do it!
  That's not the actual tagline of the upcoming animated flick. (It's "Be careful what you wish for." But the film, based on the best-selling book, has a lot less than six degrees of separation from that famous ad slogan. Coraline, directed by The Nightmare Before Christmas stop-motion master Henry Selick, is the first film to be released by Portland, Ore.-based Laika Entertainment, run by Nike co-founder and legendary marketing maven Phil Knight
  Can the guy who made athletic shoes entertaining make it in the cutthroat world of Hollywood? Coraline, coming out Feb. 6, is about a little girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) who finds a door to an alternate world where all is not sweetness and light. Knight, 70, a longtime film buff, seems to have an eye for edgier fare than the typical Disney fuzzy-talking-animals stories. Focus Features, the movie's distributor, is showcasing Coraline's visual punch and slightly off-kilter sensibility in its heavy TV campaign. What remains to be seen: if people will just show up.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley



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