NBC Pulls Nike Ad Spoof

Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery. Nike, however, was not impressed Jan. 25 when NBC ran a sitcom promo during the Super Bowl spoofing the athletic shoe maker’s new “I can” campaign.
Executives at the Beaverton, Ore.-based client–which itself ran a 60-second spot during the game–called NBC to complain about the parody, and asked the network to stop running it, Nike officials confirmed.
NBC agreed to pull the 30-second spot and two 20-second lifts from future use out of “courtesy,” according to a network representative in Burbank, Calif.
“[Nike was] cordial and friendly about it,” said NBC’s Pat Schultz. “They explained they had just started this new campaign, and while they admired our creativity, it wasn’t something that reinforced their message.”
A New York-based representative said that NBC screened the spots for Nike executives three days before the Super Bowl. “They laughed and said they loved the spot,” he said.
The “I can” campaign, by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., delivers a message of empowerment to athletes, both professional and amateur. Using voiceovers, athletes of different abilities explain how they can participate in various types of sports.
The NBC promo for Working that aired during the Super Bowl showed actors from the series in humorous office situations. The promos were shot in a similar style to the “I can” ads, with similar lettering and music. One of the actors stated, “I can photocopy my face.” Another said, “I can sleep with my eyes open.”
“The ‘I can’ message to us is about inspiration,” said Kathryn Reitch, a Nike representative. “The NBC ad that ran was pretty cynical. We feel there’s enough cynicism in the world.”
NBC has replaced the promos with subdued ones discussing the plot of the show’s next episode, Schultz said. –with Michael B†rgi