It’s 2019 and people are finding their voice and claiming their power, particularly women of color. It’s great to see. What is sickening to see is the federal government doing all it can to rip to shreds any law it can find that supports women or people of color. Sadly, these evil and corrosive behaviors are also found in corporate America. Sometimes, that’s where the illest practices are incubated and hatched.
Case in point: United States national champion Alysia Montaño just turned Nike’s ever-aspirational advertising against her former sponsor in this brilliant New York Times editorial. She did so on Mother’s Day to make her point about gender equality in sports all the more powerful and poignant.
Montaño wins on the track and here she wins big in the court of public opinion. Athletes are performers, and this athlete gets that.
Her argument about “actions speak louder than words” is beautifully succinct:
On Mother’s Day this year, Nike released a video promoting gender equality.
But that’s just advertising.
Damn. The lady kicks facts while dusting tracks.
What she did not say, that I will now say, is… it is just advertising, but it’s advertising from one of the most successful marketers the world has ever known. Nike is as much an image in an athlete’s mind, as it is a company with a new pair of shoes to sell.
When Will Nike Do What It Says and “Dream Crazy?”
Montaño’s sponsorship deal with Nike was put on hold during her pregnancy. She lost her health care right when she needed it most. It’s a common practice that no male elite athlete ever has to consider.
Montaño wisely asks Nike to live up to its billion-dollar slogans and provide maternity leave for its sponsored athletes. Her words are grounded in her reality—a reality that she shares with women all over the world.
From a brand marketing and brand voice perspective, this is now a great case study that clearly illuminates what it means to NOT OWN YOUR BRAND. The customer owns Nike’s brand (and every other brand) because the brand is an idea that lives inside the customer’s head and heart.
The idea that people have of Nike and the feelings about what the company is and what it does are based on all the experiences that the customer has with the company. Advertising is one experience that people have, and increasingly, even the best advertising looks silly because it fails to match the real story that the company’s staff, vendors, investors, and customers live every day.
In Case You Missed It
Last February, Nike lost its first attempt to scale back a class-action lawsuit accusing the athletic apparel giant of systematic pay discrimination against female employees.
The lawsuit, brought by four women who worked for The Swoosh, claims that Nike mistreats women by depressing their starting pay, marginalizing their performance to stifle their career growth, and largely ignoring sexual harassment.