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PR Fail: Nike Sucks at Geography, Insults the Carolinas
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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In the sports world, it is not much of a secret that Nike owns most of it. What with advocates, sponsors, slogans, equipment, and the occasional gaudy football uniform from Oregon, their ownership of said world keeps on growing. That said, would someone please tell Nike CEO Phil Knight that if you are going to own the sports retailing world, you may want to mix in a grade-school class of geography or some such? You hear about this from The State, South Carolina's daily newspaper?

In a catchy story entitled, "Does Nike even know where Charlotte is?" Scott Fowler from the Charlotte Observer notes Nike's latest flub to localize its brand. Evidently, some adroit online shopper is looking for Carolina Panthers' gear. While looking for shirts, something catches his eye that reminds him of something he learned in say...fourth grade: the silhouette of a state. He focuses on this one shirt with the letters "NC" and the Panthers' mascot on the state of SOUTH Carolina. 


An alert reader — Les Hall from Charlotte — pointed this T-shirt out to me. He was surfing the Nike website this week, he wrote, and looking for new Carolina Panther stuff. He came across this odd T-shirt. It indicates that someone associated with Nike believed that the Panthers play in South Carolina. Or that North Carolina's silhouette looked like South Carolina. Or something…It's clear somebody messed up.

Oh, and this fun grab can be yours for $32. Of course, Fowler has been in touch with Nike's media relations department, noting "I will let you know what they say [about what happened] when I hear back from them."

Um, Scott? That's IF you hear back from them. Nike doesn't make one-off products. The retailer probably made a bajillion of these state pride shirts, so you can imagine they are either going to be out some serious cash or sell out of every one of them. I would get one just for the novelty. Naturally, the shirt was snagged off the shelves instantly and a replacement has not been made. Probably because Nike can't find its World Atlas in the library. 

This is not the first time some geographical, regional pride debacle has happened from "Just Do It" HQ. Advertising Age points out that this isn’t the only apparel-related gaffe that Nike has made in recent years. Sports fans will recall their attempt at the “Black and Tan” sneaker that sparked an apology to all of Ireland.

Maybe it would have helped if the NFL had named the team the "Charlotte Panthers." You know, considering just about every other team is named after a city and not an entire stately region. But what do I know? Well, something, actually. I would recommend Nike think twice about making gear for the state basketball team, the Charlotte Bobcats. You know, majority owned by this Michael Jordan guy and all. 

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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