Posted by Jay29ers in Untagged
The geniuses at Nike have done it again. If you are not aware, they were responsible for the recent debacle of releasing a pair of trainers for St Patrick's Day, which were described in the clumsiest of Guinness-referencing adjectives, and named, I kid you not, after the moniker given to the horrendously vicious British paramilitary unit which tortured and murdered Irish people in the early 1920s, the Black and Tans.
The only explanation for this PR disaster must be that a little word association popped into the mind of a marketeer and a quick Google of "Ireland black tans" gave enough - unchecked - results to apparently vindicate the now full-steam-ahead development of this project. Despite the obvious offence caused, the notion of this campaign being discussed in passing at an office water cooler in Portland, Oregon, leading any employee with a modicum of knowledge of Irish history to feel the blood drain from their face, offers a comical subtext to the farce.
And, as I say, they've done it again. This time the consequences are far less offensive and far less perversely misguided but they do again concern a lax grasp of details relating to history, in this case that of Liverpool Football Club.
LeBron James, the American basketball player, has had a pair of signature shoes made in his honour and these are decorated with graphics relating to Liverpool's history - via Nike's peculiar twisting of the facts.
I like Mr James. It's fun to see his enthusiasm for his business concern in the North West of England - he is a partner of Liverpool's owners Fenway Sports Group - and his carrying of non-adidas-branded club shop tat that would otherwise go unsold but for his contractual eschewing of Nike's rivals. The smile is wiped from our faces, however, when we see Nike produce trainers in his name, in a questionable colourway, which carry depictions of 18 Premier League trophies - denoting the club's English league titles, all won before the inception of the Premier League - and a heel detail "inspired by" the Liver Bird but looking more like a griffin defecating.
Despite the Liver Bird not being trademarked it would obviously be beyond audacious - and bound to provoke legal action nonetheless - if Nike had used an intrinsic part of the Liverpool crest on a pair of shoes which references the club, but for me this is easily resolved. Just don't make the trainers. And had Nike run the designs past fans of the club then they would never have been put into development.
Nike have had a welcome impact on football design and are now, with a little help from their subsidiary Umbro, receiving regular plaudits for their drawing board approach and for their ethics. In fairness, the indiscretions outlined - and the latter is not the first involving LeBron James - are unrelated to the Nike Football section of the company, which has again boosted its own reputation with its Euro 2012 releases and the new Celtic kit, but a brand is a brand and when you begin to risk the sales of Ireland shirts (Umbro) and, for similar reasons, the aforementioned Celtic shirts, not to mention your entire sportswear range in Ireland and in the sportswear-loving East End of Glasgow and Merseyside, it may be time to put a little more R into your R&D.