You might not know it from their ad budget, but Nike’s had brand problems for a while now. They make the right moves with the indie crowd, but they can still come off a little…evil. And their latest Chinese forays may not help. A rule of thumb: When you start calling for the heads of your critics, you may want to reconsider your PR strategy.
Gawker reports on a rumor that Nike had hurdler Liu Xiang fake an injury and drop out of the Olympic Games because of his poor chances. It’s not the most damaging rumor Nike’s faced—after all, the haters are always with us—but (as Gawker points out) they've come under fire for tampering before. And as bad as the scandal is, Nike’s response has been even worse. They reached out to their friends in the Chinese government to “investigate those that started the rumor,” meaning some poor blogger is about to get reeducated. A mess of back-pedaling followed, which ended up making everyone involved look worse.
It’s familiar business to anyone who’s seen *Rollerball*, but it’s especially remarkable how little it has to do with shoes. Nike waded into this mess for good PR, but they were so committed to winning every battle that they ended up frog-walking an athlete out of the Olympics and calling for a foreign power to make room in the gulag. All in the name of good press. Of course, if they’d stopped to listen to an athlete or two, they’d know that nobody wins every game and throwing a fit when you lose doesn’t do you any favors.
As for the police, when we talked about collaboration, this wasn’t what we had in mind.