By Joshua Brower
I couldn’t help but smile and laugh recently when a friend posted the “Cleveland Response to the Lebron James Nike Commercial” on my Facebook wall. Only weeks before I had written about Nike’s original commercial and how I thought Nike meant for its controversial nature.
The ad highlights NBA basketball superstar Lebron James satirizing the criticism he took for signing with the Miami Heat this offseason. Nike suffered a barrage of media criticism for underscoring a touchy subject too soon after it boiled over. I think that this controversy was exactly what Nike wanted because it follows its trend of trying to stir up controversy to bring attention to its name. And it doesn’t care what kind of attention it is.
Well, as soon as I saw the Cleveland response video (created before Lebron's Cleveland "homecoming" game in which he scored 38 points against his former team), Nike’s true genius became clear to me. The video was a perfect example of the type of publicity I suspected Nike hoped would surface as a response to its ad. It features snippets of the original ad, including five Nike “swoosh” symbols in just over one minute. It even spoofs the well-known Nike slogan surrounding James, “We are all witnesses,” with a final frame that reads, “Quitness,” mocking Lebron’s decision to “quit” on Cleveland. Most importantly, the video is entirely consumer generated, so it does not carry the common connotations that a corporate-created ad would. This makes people more likely to watch and enjoy it because they don’t feel like they are being persuaded.
Over the past few weeks I have watched the reaction to this ad very carefully and with the release of this response video, I think I can confidently say that Nike’s PR team is a step ahead of all of us. While we are all too busy arguing about how inappropriate these ads are, Nike is laughing at us for generating all this free PR for it. Nike doesn’t care if it tests boundaries or touchy subjects because it knows the brand loyalty it has built will keep its customers' trust. Nike completely understands its consumer, and, for that, I applaud them.
Joshua Brower is a senior in the undergraduate Integrated Marketing Communications program. Upon graduation in June, he will be taking a position working in sales at Zimmer Corporation. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.