by UnHerd
Wednesday, 25
August 2021
Seen Elsewhere
13:47

Even Nike can’t sell masculinity anymore

The company's brand has become lost in identity politics
by UnHerd

In the 1990s, as sports writer Ethan Strauss remembers it, Nike ads were internationally popular, culturally relevant “generational touchstones”. Written by the Wieden+Kennedy firm, these miniature movies were “often creatively daring but also quite funny”. Consider 1996’s “Good vs Evil” where a team of footballers face off against Satan’s demonic soccer army.

 

Nike, according to Strauss, has stopped making and commissioning ads like this. Why?

Modern Nike ads will never be so remembered. It’s not because we’re so inundated with information these days, though we are. And it’s not because today’s overexposed athletes lack the mystique of the 1990s superstars, though they do. It’s because the modern Nike ads are beyond fucking terrible.
- Ethan Strauss, Substack

And why are these ads so terrible? Nike like so many other institutions is tangled in the cultural weeds — race, gender, and power. “The result is that what Nike is happens to be at cross-purposes from what Nike aspires to be.”

Nike’s main problem is this: It’s a company built on masculinity, most specifically Michael Jordan’s alpha dog brand of it. Now, due to its own ambitions, scandals, and intellectual trends, Nike finds masculinity problematic enough to loudly reject.
- Ethan Strauss, Substack

For decades, Nike profited from and marketed a brand of hyper-masculinity. As Strauss puts it:

If you’re committed to marketing sports overall, you’re marketing, at the very least, a brand of masculinity. Dominating your opponents isn’t the only way to be a man and doing so isn’t exclusively the province of men, but the act itself is a disproportionately male endeavor, and also something that really appeals to male audiences. The nation that contains more female than male sports fans … doesn’t exist. Nike sold the public this rented masculinity, year after year, and the public bought it, including the many women who found Nike’s pitchmen and products to be charismatic.
- Ethan Strauss, Substack

What are Nike’s football ads like today? They’re tolerance bromides, with hyper-masculinity not air-bushed out of the picture, but actively condemned.

 

Strauss thinks it resembles “an aggressive parody of liberals” not an advertisement for sports apparel. The company’s voice has been bent into the “language of righteousness.”

Ironically, Nike mattered a lot more in the days when its position was less dominant. Back when it had to really fight for market share, it made bold, genre-altering art. The ads were synonymous with masculine victory, plus they were cheekily irreverent. And so the dudes loved them. Today, Nike is something else. It LARPs as a grandiose feminist nonprofit as it floats aimlessly on the vessel Michael Jordan built long ago. Like Jordan himself, Nike is rich forever off what it can replicate never. Unlike Jordan, it now wishes to be known for anything but its triumphs. Nike once told a story and that story resonated with its audience. Now it’s decided that its audience is the problem.
- Ethan Strauss, Substack

Read the whole essay here.

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James Joyce
James Joyce
9 months ago

Wow! Excellent essay. What is a consumer to do when the firm hates the customer? How can the customer resist “woke” companies who do not share my values? I’m a Million Miler on Delta, but I HATE HATE HATE their woke corporate policies. I’m an Apple Fanboy, but they, too, are woke. Procter & Gamble had a Gillette ad that directly attacked the men (or should I say “non-women?”) who bought their product. How is that a winning strategy–tell your customers you hate them? Get your customers to hate you?
Why can’t Delta concentrate on the best flight experience for their customers and the best rate of return for their shareholders, and why can’t Apple focus exclusively on making “insanely great” products and services? Stated another way, how and why do corporations–and contrary to Mitt Romney, I believe that corporations are inanimate entities, NOT “corporations are people too,” as he famously said–become woke? Aren’t they taking their eye off the ball? Corporations should treat their employees and other stakeholders fairly, treat them well, but their mission is not so-called “social justice.”

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Because the Universities are completely taken over by Post Modernism. The products of these universities now are worked throughout the Corporations and so produce their sick morality into corporate policy. This is how the leadership is in Politics too – the Democrat Party is totally gone to this dark side.

Al M
Al M
9 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

What’s a rub is that I’ve just purchased a new pair of Converse lo-tops and then realised who the parent company is. Drat, foiled again!

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
9 months ago

I actually found this Nike advert a little sinister and threatening. In my experience those who loudly advertise how loving they are tend to be hate-filled, much like predatory men love-bombing naive women in order to convince them of their ‘niceness’.
Reminds me of this advert that the Scottish government put out a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcr7hg8SJik

James Joyce
James Joyce
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Thank you for the link. I had not seen nor heard of this before, but it is chilling. “If we see anything, we’re calling the police….” 1984 in Scotland. I am a huge proponent of “hate speech,” as part of “freedom of speech.” Remember that? If they don’t accept freedom of speech, they can f**k off. Scottish Taliban. Wow!

Alan Hughes
Alan Hughes
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

God , that was a frightening TV ad from the Scottish Government. Like something out of a dystopian SciFi flick.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
9 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Dear me!!

George Glashan
George Glashan
9 months ago

that modern ad is indeed hilarious.
“you can’t stop us, might as well join us”
… looks over at Afghanistan, China, Russia, seems like they are stopping and not joining.

Last edited 9 months ago by George Glashan
Al M
Al M
9 months ago

From what I have seen, footballers now try to sell me razors while delivering a sermon

George Best advertised sausages. Go figure.

Last edited 9 months ago by Al M
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  Al M

Women’s Soccer, “Before the game, all 22 players of the US and the Swedish teams took a knee in a stadium devoid of fans to protest racial injustices”

In the Daily Mail posting below the story of the games from then on the American posters almost universally wished USA team to lose, they were so disgusted. I will watch no sports where kneeling is done – the sight of the UK Cops, and in the Senate of Pelosi and her toadies,’ taking the knee’. so sickened me I can never think the same of them – that sight always will stick.

Kneeling to God, or to your Monarch, I get – groveling in submission I do not.

Al M
Al M
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Didn’t Dominic Raab include proposing to his wife? I’m sure that’s good form for a chap. The original article is very enjoyable also.

Well, take solace that few Nikes will be sold around Bermondsey. I did watch the England/Italy match. One opinion piece (I’m no scholar of the game) looked at how much more aggressive the Italians were; better at ‘toxic masculinity’ it would seem, and it made sense. Been looking at photos of the Italian team and there doesn’t appear to be an overload of ‘Swoosh’ signs.

Get woke and go broke or stay toxic and win?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  Al M

Yes. proposing on a knee is also valid.

During Feudal days the ceramony of feility was the person nelt in front of who was to become his lord and held his hands out, togther, and the Lord put his hands over those of the supplicant, and an oath of to the death fealty was taken. The bond to serve both ways was made to last till death.

Marriage is the same, but equal.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago

Did not read, the adds are just Satanist – Nike is a sick thing.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
8 months ago

I remember, in “Fast food nation”, Eric Schlosser concluded his book by pointing out that Macca’s et al. weren’t satanic overlords bent on the subjugation of the public, but rather were business operators. If you disliked their operational strategies and wanted to change them, the best approach was to make a business pitch to show them the benefit of operating differently. In essence, then, “enlightened capitalism”.
The “woke” takeover bid of so many companies seems to have learned the basics of that principle, but uses it to effect change in the name of an oppressive ideology, to all our detriment. End result: they’ll destroy the business they cudgel into compliance. Not that they care, of course. It’s as though a social virus acquired the”code” described above and applied it to pushing abstractions that the majority don’t recognize or sympathize with, but which most daren’t, or can’t afford to, reject. FUBAR.