Wednesday, July 30, 2008


This is what happens when your professional life is a confluence of sports, media and advertising.

Recently, Creativity Online – a portal in Advertising Age that gives subscribers a chance to preview and judge advertisements in the various mediums – profiled a Nike ad that the company recalled because of anti-gay claims. While there has been more news about the pulling of the ads than the ads themselves, Creativity asks people who tend to be decision-makers about the kinds of images they need and want to project for their clients.

The campaign, which promotes the latest editions of its Hyperdunk line, shows ballplayers in some in-game snapshots. Yet, these aren’t your run-of-the-mill, let’s-see-him-dribble-in-front-of-the-camera shots.

If you’ve seen the ads, the first thought that could have come to mind may be something like this:

Yet, some see this:

Talking with SPJ about the ads this evening, we couldn't exactly understand the uproar and reason to pull the ad. At least, not based on how we know the game of hoop.

Anyone who has at least watched, if not played, basketball has witnessed  as the one pictured: a dunk so ferocious and so - with apologies to the English language - ridonculous that even James Naismith would C-walk along the sidelines in celebration of what just happened. Anyone who has played the game more than once has a) posterized someone that exact way and/or b) been posterized that exact way.

Even if they were on the monkey bars in the projects as I used to back in the mid-nineties.

If you've played the game before - especially the flashy, in-your-face, aggressive streetball - and you saw that poster, you probably smiled, laughed or said "damn... that really ain't right!" because you know that it's part of the game.

Yet, I can understand how it could be perceived to be homophobic. Once the quotes were added to the photo, the prints were open for various interpretation. The center of the poster's action combined with a shaking-my-head-like quote can be viewed as a condemnation of an intimate act between gay men.

I can imagine that as the Human Rights Coalition (the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender lobby group that pressured Nike) were talking with company executives, the sneaker pushers were trying to bring home the point of how their pictures were reflecting a part of the game of basketball. Obviously, the decision to pull the ads was out of fears of further upsetting those who shunned the campaign.

The agency that came up with the campaign, Wieden+Kennedy, has to wonder if they didn't test their work properly or if it really is an overraction by people who get offended for a living.

So, what do you see from the ad?

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