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Thad on Sports: Nike – Connecting or Cashing In?

When does one’s marketing strategy crossover from an attempt to connect, to cashing in?

Nike’s recent ad campaign to promote and target extreme sports with with skater, snowboard and surfer lingo on its shirts has raised a few eyebrows.

The shirts are billboards for such phrases as “Dope,” “Get High” and “Ride Pipe.”

Nike says it represents the language and culture of skateboarders, surfers and other participants in extreme sports. Opponents say it’s the language of addicts.

The Dope shirts show an image of a pill bottle upended with surfboards and skateboards pouring out.

Nike supporters say it is not meant to offend but instead to connect – something Nike does extremely well.

History has taught Nike that a little controversy goes a long way in helping with marketing.

Nike has long pushed the envelope with its products and marketing efforts. According to an Associated Press report, the company had an “Air Stab” line of shoes that was pulled in London in 2008 after a spate of knife deaths around that time. The company also had a series of ads for its Hyperdunk shoes that included images and slogans that some critics considered anti-gay. Nike supported the campaign at first but later withdrew the ads.

Beyond, whether what Nike is doing is responsible? One must ask is it the image skateboarders and other extreme athletes want projected about their sports and athletes?

Nike’s concern about their ad campaigns is the money trail it creates not the image it might project – in this case skateboarders and extreme athletes be damned.

Are the shirts likely to convince youth that drugs are alright? No more than “Just Say No” on a T-shirt stopped youth from experimenting.

Is Nike’s dramatic marketing strategy to connect with its target audience right? Probably not.

Is selling “Dope” and “Get High” T-shirts responsible? Probably not.

Is it profitable? You Bet!

Will Nike stop printing them? Not a chance!