Creating inspiring brands.

Miley Cyrus and Nike’s Jordans – nobody gets it

When I say Nike (and I say Nike quite a lot, because I like it) you think of the sports brand. You think of giving it all you’ve got, you think of how you ran the other day, and sweating out the stress, and feeling good about it.

Ok, you might not have thought of all these things, but you did think of sports and athletes.

As an ex basketball player (if you don’t believe me, you are not the only one), one of the first associations on Nike is Michael Jordan. But, one thing you definitely don’t think of is wearing Nikes on a mini skirt and out in a club, or if you are under 17 you actually might, and you ask what brought that change. Well, Nike is kicking up its presence, with young people, uniting pro athletes, clubbers, wannabes, basically peer pressured young people through music, primarily rap and hip hop. For instance, the song “23” by Mike Will Made it, featuring Juicy J, Miley Cyrus & Wiz Khalifa illustrates it well.

Now, the link between Nike’s brand essence – authentic athletic performance and the lyrics I’m in the club high on purp with some shades on, tatted up, mini skirt with my J’s on, is a very weak one. However, a very good one for creating new associations for a teenage target group aspiring to appear cool.

What is problematic is the strong reference to using drugs while wearing Jordan’s signature shoe brand. Of course, rappers always use brands in their rap, but this song is not just referencing but is called after the Nike’s sneakers. Now, I don’t think that it will hurt Nike, because Nike isn’t officially claiming anything on this song, but the song is all about its shoe brand, the name, the branding. What’s new is that it’s showing young people the new way of wearing J’s, which is very convenient for the brand but contextually placing it with drugs. For a sports brand to be used in the same sentence with drugs, is not new for Nike, considering the Armstrong scandal, but if Nike wants a clean prudish image, it should launch PR about not backing up in any sort of way the image that the song portrays.

Now what the song actually does is widens the target group to young white women even though it does aggravate the good old target group that loves the real rap and is into the sneakers, the so-called sneakerheads (kids who own a crazy amount of Nikes, Jordans and other brands and obsess on collecting them).

When comparing the views on YouTube between Nike’s commercial Just do it –Possibilities with its 12 million views and the song “23” with its 194 million views, it’s clear that even though they were launched at the same time the song is more popular by far.

Maybe it’s Macklemore who got it right when he said: I think that Phil Knight (co-founder and Chairman of Nike, Inc.) has probably made billions of dollars or millions and millions of dollars off of being extremely good at manipulating the masses. But I love his shoes!”


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