Nike Puts Alpha Project on the Shelf

Marketer Rethinks Strategy While Total Spending Hits $350 Mil.
SAN FRANCISCO–New work from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for Nike’s Alpha Project has been placed on hold indefinitely, as Nike considers how to move ahead with advertising its premium products, sources said.
The shift comes as Nike said it will boost its overall ad budget by $50 million in the fiscal year that begins June 1, raising its spending to an all-time high of $350 million. Nike executives said the extra dollars will come from continued reductions in expenses.
Wieden & Kennedy’s Alpha work in Europe and Asia is unaffected.
At least two new Goodby ads for Alpha that were headed for production have been halted, sources said last week. With Nike now evaluating its current strategy on Alpha, the shop is anxiously awaiting a clear direction on whether it will be asked to change its campaign, sources said.
Goodby executives declined to comment on the matter.
The break in The Alpha Project coincides with the arrival of Rob DeFlorio as ad director of Nike USA. It follows Alpha’s much-heralded introduction via a $30-40
million campaign from Goodby that broke New Year’s Day. Alpha was hyped with movie trailer-style teaser ads on television in December which featured Gary Payton of the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics immersed in the weird world of Patell’s Oddities Shop.
Nike last week pulled a 30-second Alpha TV spot called “Blader” from the campaign. That commercial showed a tiny person wearing Nike Air Warp Flex in-line skates racing a toy train. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio protested the depiction in a letter to Nike president Tom Clarke, noting the ad would “glorify this all-too-often tragic activity.”
The remainder of the Alpha campaign will run at least through month’s end, a Nike representative said. He would not disclose future Alpha ad plans.
“We’re on a long-term path with Alpha. It’s going to be very powerful for us and the industry,” said Clarke at a sporting goods industry trade show in Atlanta last week. Clarke did not address agency assignments.
“The thing about Alpha is that it is a “real long-term commitment,” added Andy Mooney, vice president, global brand management. He estimated that Alpha would account for 15 to 20 percent of Nike’s total revenues within three years.
Nike next turns its attention to a campaign related to college basketball’s March Madness from lead shop Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.