The ‘Swoosh’ and global branding – ‘To the Next Level’

Although David Beckham wears Nike as a professional footballer, he does not [currentlyl endorse it as a brand, Given Beckham’s global celebrity status it is an interesting point to consider – why doesn’t he? The answer may lie in the brand image and brand identity of Nike,

Nike’s ‘swoosh’ is one of the most recognisable glopal sports logos, Nike’s image is based on urban ‘edginess’ and the company often uses renowned sports personalities who have had a ‘bad boy’ image, such as Eric Cantona and. lately, Wayne Rooney, or popular but non-mainstream activities such as break dancing.

In America, Nike’s message often appeals to a particular ethnic group and its advertising campaigns focus on black athletes and the sports to which the black audience has an affinity, such as basketball. Recently, in order to broaden its appeal to other audiences, Nike has also moved into areas such as the female market through street dancing, (These adverts can be viewed on wwwyouTube,com,)

A study of Nike raises questions about globalisation and about cultural and global imperialism, When you go to buy locally in the UK, for example are you really buying globally? What else have you bought apart from a pair of trainers or a Tshirt? Have you, perhaps, bought in to a global fashion trend or contributed to global homogenisation? Nike, it appears, understands this global I local contradiction and, with its global campaigns such as the recent (April 2008) football campaign ‘To the Next Level’ (a two-minute film directed by Guy Ritchie of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) broadcast during the 2008 European Football Championships, it has referenced the Local; Ritchie’s global video is given a regional (local] feel by focuslng on particular footballers depending on the continent from which you are viewing, The advert combines scenes on the football pitch with off-pitch and glamorous nightlife and crass (male) humour, such as ‘mooning’. The narrative subject, from whose point-of-view the game is ‘played’ is the viewer who ‘plays’ for a Premiership club against the world’s greatest footballers  such as Ronaldo. The edgy style links with the edgy urban nature of previous campaigns and also offers interiextual reference to Ritchie’ black comedy gangster movies.

The campaign, like other Nike ads, was globally released on television and on line on the Nike website, it also provided interactivlty as you could sign up for a training programme, allowing the viewer to become more deeply engaged in the Nike message. In 2008 Nike also released adverts for the Olympics in Beijing made specifically for Chinese audiences, These show ordinary Chinese citizens suddenly performing extraordinary athletic feats

Such local advertising suggests that Nike is aiming to provide a local message on a global scale. But, who benefits? Sport is a commercial and cultural global industry and the advertising ‘job’ is to promote it and to commodify the aspirations and inspiration sport provides, Nike hopes the world will buy into this commodification by purchasing the Nike Logo and the Nike message of grass roots sport.  In sport advertising It IS possible to see how power and representations are reflected through the adverts and how this in turn is influenced by globalisation of sport. The debate raised is how far global imperialism, ‘the trans-national control by a few conglomerates, imposes identities onto local cultures, or how far there is an exchange of ideas through the ability of the global economy to reach local consumers and react to their needs so that cultural imperialism is not a wholly one-way process?

Nike’s base is in the USA buy it has relatively few employees there; the production is done by workers in factories in countries like Indonesia, interestingly the co-founder of the company (Phil Knight) stated that the ‘three-legged stool’ of Nike’s success consists of celebrity endorsement, product design and advertising. Efficient economic production is omitted from this metaphorical stool and Nike has be.en frequently criticised for the exploitation of developing world workers particularly those in the Far East. Whatever the outcome of these debates, one fact in undeniable: the majority of the profit is bound for American shores and this economic control could be regarded as the clearest form of global and cultural imperialism.


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