Is Nike Saying What I Think it is Saying?

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, because I wasn’t sure if 1) the subject matter was appropriate for my blog or 2) that any of you would care or know what I was talking about.

Anyway, you know that Nike ad? That one where the guy says “My Better is Better Than Your Better“?

That great song in the background is “List of Demands (Reparations)” by Saul Williams.

I am a fan of Saul Williams (not including his cover of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” which blows) and particularly “List of Demands”. Seriously, it is one of my favorite songs. Maybe one of my favorite tracks ever.Saul Williams

Here is my question to Nike: Are you trying to say that the government owes descendants of slaves money? That is a pretty hard core line for Nike to be taking.

This may be the most inappropriate use of a great song in an advertising campaign since Royal Caribbean Cruise lines used Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life” too sell cruises. I now cannot separate Royal Caribbean and heroin abuse in my mind.

This has been bothering me for weeks. I started to do some research and it isn’t just me that noticed.

It is a great song and the upbeat vibe fits the ad campaign perfectly but wow Nike. Reparations? During a war and a recession?

Am I overreacting? Am I underreacting? Is underreacting even a word? Discuss.

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  1. My feeling is that Nike has a tendency not to consider the political ramifications of their advertising song choices (see use of “Revolution” back in the 80’s.) I love the song, I love the artist, but I think a call for reparations IN ORDER TO SELL SHOES (which is what the bottom line was, I thought) is hopelessly stupid and lame, and a fairly uninspired, unsophisticated approach to marketing. I’m kind of hoping it bites them in the ass.

    I agree about the RC Cruise/Iggy Pop thing. Every time I hear that song, I feel like I should be fake-rock climbing on a boat somewhere, and I just don’t think I should feel like that.

  2. Know someone who worked on that Royal campaign. Tried to change the song many times, until they got fired by Royal, the same people who needed a definition of the word “ennui.” Enough griping about that — honestly, I think mostly ad people are looking for 30 seconds of something that sounds good and rarely go much further than that. Which is sad, because a lot of songs have been ruined for me due to over or weird usage in an ad. But on the other hand, I’ve also downloaded some decent new tunes after hearing them on the toob. Which probably makes me lame on many levels.

  3. I don’t think Nike is actaully calling for reparations (I’d be surprised if their ad rep even knows what reparations are), I think they just want to sell shoes. They have some historically poorly thought out marketing decisions, including the whole Incubus shoe debacle.

  4. I totally agree with you. While the vibe of the song is perfect for what it’s being used for, I still think that they could have picked something else and been better off. I have a feeling that it’s going to come back to bite them…

  5. I like the fact they’re using his song. I think he needs more exposure.

    That said, I don’t think advertising execs listen to the lyrics of the songs they use. Look at Yaz using “We’re Not Gonna Take It” to promote their birth control pill. Or Cadillac using the “lust for vomit” line from The Pogues’ Sunnyside Of The Street. But yeah, the biggest offender is definitely Lust For Life.

    A simple Google search would give them the lyrics and artist background information for any song they wanted to use. I know this, you know this, why don’t the advertising execs know this?

  6. I don’t have a clue who Saul Williams is and I’d never heard the song before so given that, when I watched the ad, all I saw and heard was an awesome ad with energetic funky music to go with it. Now what you and others saw and heard because you understand the music may be exactly how you took it as being scandallous and controvercial… I guess Nike could have done that on purpose to be scandallous and controvercial OR just to get all of you riled up and talking about it. Either way… they made their point and succeeded in their mission… we’re all thinking Nike now.

  7. I smell a marketing department at work here – that’s about it.
    Anything to sell more shoes.

  8. If that is the line that Nike is taking, can they just pay my part of the reparations? Cuz I’m really broke right now.
    And I paid my share to the Native Americans when I gave them all my money at their Casino.

  9. I bet Nike would prefer that government dollars be used on tax breaks for companies that manufacture sneakers overseas, rather than reparations. I’m just guessing.

  10. I guess i’m cluless cause I don’t watch or look at ad’s.

  11. The word pandering comes to mind – making a political statement with no real intention behind it.

    But if you really want to put a lot of thought into it, you might consider that athletic success is one way that some African Americans have been able to extract a whole lot of money out of mostly white people. Of course that’s not going to work for everyone, but if you just bought the right sneaker….

    I have to stop now. You see where I’m going with this and it’s not pretty.

  12. Shannon says:

    I am guessing that either the guys behind the ad are clueless or at least hope the viewers will be… because the ad shows people of all races and colors, so it’s inclusive, whereas reparations is an issue I’d call divisive (though as a “white liberal elite,” I’m all for them).

  13. I’m guessing Nike just wanted the beat, and actually, the lyrics in that clip taken just in the context of soundtrack, work. Still don’t wear Nikes though.

  14. I’m not familiar with the Nike commercial, but I completely agree about the Iggy Goes Cruising ad.

  15. It had a good beat! I could dance to it! I give it a 99, Dick!

  16. What Whit said.

    And thanks for the introduction to Saul Williams.

    Missed the whole IPop cruising thing, but any time I hear someone saying they’re taking a holiday in Cambodia, it sticks the DK song in my head for a week: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AWQEFOSGn0.

  17. There’s no political intentions here. It’s all about commercialing the beat to fit the add.
    This is like people wearing a Che Guevarra shirt not knowing what Che represented.

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