Nike becomes the first UK company to have a Twitter campaign banned
Jordan and Wayne Rooney have a lot in common.
Both are self-made and loaded. Both depend on their physical assets for their income. Both have very bad hair. And both have been paid by big brands to send tweets, seemingly of their own accord, as part of cunning marketing ploys.
The difference between Katie Price’s tweeting campaign and poor old Wayne’s is that he has just today had his promotional tweets banned. Nike paid him and fellow footballer Jack Wilshere to get involved with its #makeitcount campaign on Twitter in January but have been asked to remove them – making Nike the first UK company to have a Twitter campaign banned.
Rooney tweeted: “My resolution – to start the year as a champion, and finish it as a champion … #makeitcount gonike.me/makeitcount.”
Wilshere wrote, also in January: “In 2012, I will come back for my club – and be ready for my country. #makeitcount.gonike.me/Makeitcount.”
A measly one person complained about both tweets, arguing they were not easily identifiable as marketing on behalf of Nike. (You can’t help but wonder if that one person might just have been an employee of a rival company #justsayin.) Hmm – it seems to us that they were fairly obvious, but there you go.
Unfortunately for Nike, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) agreed with the moany loner. “We considered that the Nike reference was not prominent and could be missed, consumers would not have already been aware of Nike’s “#makeitcount” campaign and that not all Twitter users would be aware of the footballers’ and their teams’ sponsorship deal with Nike.
“We considered there was nothing obvious in the tweets to indicate they were Nike marketing communications. In the absence of such an indication, for example #ad, we considered the tweets were not obviously identifiable as Nike marketing communications.”
Ay, and therein lies the rub. For while sponsored tweets dressed up as normal ones have been used by brands before – the aforementioned Katie Price’s sudden tweeting about China’s GDP and quantitative easing for a sneaky Snickers campaign being our favourite example – celebs have been careful to slip in a final tweet with the brand’s name and #spon (sponsored) or the like.
So what does this whole debacle say about brands’ new forays into the largely unchartered waters of sponsored celebrity social activity? And were Nike really so bad for trying to slip this one through the ASA net?
Expert eye: Nicholas Bruce, senior account manager, Octagon (sports and entertainment agency)
Nike has always played it very close to the line, and sometimes over it, as in this case. This summer it will likely try the same. That said, there are rumours that Nike is not planning to be as bold as at previous World Cups and Olympic Games due to the tight controls that LOCOG have in place.
Also, Nike is apparently seriously looking at an official sponsorship for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which would be a fairly significant change in direction for it. (This is likely due to Adidas’s ongoing relationship with FIFA and the World Cup, which is also taking place in Brazil in 2014. Nike has a heritage of involvement in Brazilian football and sport so will want to safeguard its position there.) So Nike might well be more careful about pushing the boundaries around Olympic marketing activity this summer.
It’s worth pointing out that regulation on social media is increasingly difficult because of both the sheer volume of content that is posted every second and social’s ever-changing nature. The likelihood is that Rooney and Wilshere got in trouble due to their profile. Lesser-known athletes have a better chance to fly under the radar with less chance of reproach.
So will we see more marketing activity like this from here on? And what would be the repercussion for brands and celebrities who try it out?
It’s a grey line. I would expect overt actions like Rooney’s and Wilshere’s to get picked up by the regulators, whereas less overt tweets by lesser known athletes will possibly go unpunished.
Tweets by athletes during the Games on behalf of brands that are not official sponsors, though, will run the risk of being heavily sanctioned.