Nike has become the first UK brand to have its Twitter campaign banned after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the sporting company’s use of professional footballers breached the rules by not making it clear to followers that tweets sent out were ads.
Nike’s promotion, which included such footballing luminaries as Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, published advertisement tweets that were “agreed with the help of a member of the Nike marketing team”, but didn’t make it clear that these weren’t normal musings, and as such fell foul of the ASA’s regulations.
Rooney’s rule-breaking tweet, which went out to his four million followers in January and was heavily retweeted, can be seen below.
— Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) January 1, 2012
Wilshere sent a similar promotional message, in which he told his followers that “In 2012, I will come back for my club — and be ready for my country. #makeitcount gonike.me/Makeitcount.”
Both tweets are still visible at the time of writing.
Nike argued that because both footballers were well-known for their association with the company the player’s respective followers would not feel misled. The ASA disagreed.
“We considered that the Nike reference was not prominent and could be missed,” said the ASA. “We considered there was nothing obvious in the tweets to indicate they were Nike marketing communications.”
“In the absence of such an indication, for example #ad, we considered the tweets were not obviously identifiable as Nike marketing communications and therefore concluded they breached the [advertising] code. The ads must no longer appear. We told Nike to ensure that its advertising was obviously identifiable as such.”
In March, the ASA investigated a Twitter celebrity campaign undertaken by Mars to promote their Snickers bar, but the chocolate maker was ultimately cleared.
To be honest, I’m with Nike on this. It’s clearly an ad. Read Wayne’s tweet again. Note the lack of typos, correct use of grammar/punctuation and clear, well-constructed message. It should have been blatantly obvious to every single one of his followers that this message did not come from Mr Rooney.