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Nike Gets Kinky

Feb. 07, 2000
Feb. 07, 2000

Table of Contents
Feb. 7, 2000

Super Bowl XXXIV
Tennis
  • The world's top-ranked players, Andre Agassi and Martina Hingis, had a chance to escape the heels of their respective nemeses in Australia, but only one of them did

Nike Gets Kinky

Cross-training or cross-straining? Nike's ad campaign for its
new Air Cross Trainer II urges viewers to turn from their
televisions to their computers to learn how each commercial
"ends." In the first 60-second spot, which premiered on Jan. 15,
the camera chases sprinter Marion Jones through a Santa Monica,
Calif., neighborhood, culminating with an airborne chain saw
plummeting toward the camera (i.e., the viewer).

This is an article from the Feb. 7, 2000 issue Original Layout

What happens next? The screen fades to black, and the words
"Continued at: whatever.nike.com" appear. On the site the
curious may select one of seven climaxes, each of which lasts 25
to 50 seconds. Says Mike Wilsky, Nike's vice president of U.S.
marketing, "Clearly, what we're trying to do is intrigue people
to turn a 60-second experience with our product into a 30-minute
experience by lingering on the Web site."

Bold idea, questionable execution. In two of the seven endings
the viewer dies. In three others the viewer has an arm severed,
gets teeth knocked out or suffers a facial injury so hideous it
sends a nurse screaming out of the ER. Was this campaign
conceived by Wieden & Kennedy or Beavis & Butt-Head?

The second installment is set on a cruise ship. This time,
instead of playing the hapless Wile E. Coyote chaser, the viewer
is chased by Mark McGwire after plunking Big Mac with a
baseball. The TV ad ends with the viewer falling down a vent, a
la Alice in Wonderland. Again, the on-line outcomes are grisly:
One has McGwire delivering a punch to the viewer's gut and then
tossing him overboard. Two others have Broncos running back
Terrell Davis using the viewer's lips to tee up a golf ball or
impaling him during an ill-fated knife-throwing performance.

"Most companies don't give teens enough credit for having
perspective," says Wilsky. "Their ability to have a sense of
humor about things and be sarcastic without losing perspective
is really high."

That point is debatable, but these ads have less in common with
cartoon violence than they do with sadism. Davis, Jones and
McGwire all seem to revel in the pain they are inflicting on
their victims. The term target consumer has never been so apt.

Sadism, however, seems to sell shoes. "After the ads debuted,"
says Wilsky, "the shoe immediately shot to Number 1 in Nike
sales. It's outselling our second-most-popular shoe 10 to 1."

Content aside, Nike's campaign puts networks in an awkward spot.
Won't such ads, inspired by the popularity of the Victoria's
Secret on-line "fashion show" during last year's Super Bowl,
encourage viewers to turn off the TV and log on to their
computer? CBS and NBC apparently think so; they cut the words
"Continued at" from the spots. Wilsky calls that stab at
self-preservation "archaic" and adds, "Sports, like everything
else, is entering the digital world. If you're a network that's
trailing in the digital race, then this is somewhat
intimidating. But this isn't the future; it's the present."
--John Walters

3 A.M. IN BRISTOL

Brian Kenny pulled an all-nighter to serve ESPN viewers
piping-hot tennis with their oatmeal

By John Walters

Kenny Mayne led off last Friday morning's SportsCenter by
introducing his cohost, "tennis aficionado Brian Kenny." Mayne's
reference was to the long shift Kenny worked to get Andre
Agassi-Pete Sampras Australian Open highlights on the show. "Our
7 a.m. shows are repeats of the 1 a.m. show," says Kenny, "but
when the two best players in the world begin a match at 3 a.m.
our time, we want to have the results for you."

Kenny's day began around 7 a.m., when he helped his wife,
Nicole, get their five children off to school. He arrived at
ESPN's Bristol studios that afternoon and began writing for the
1 a.m. SportsCenter. "We taped a lead-in to the morning show
after the 1 a.m. show," says Kenny, "so Kenny could go home.
Then the crew and I went over to our cafeteria to watch the
match."

The five-setter ended shortly after 6 a.m. EST. At 6:35 a.m.
Kenny taped a highlight segment, reporting the results
off-camera--"so no one would have to see my 5 a.m. shadow." The
show opened with Agassi's victory, and it appeared that Kenny
and Mayne were in the studio. In fact, Mayne had hit the pillow
hours before, and Kenny had just arrived home, where, to give
Nicole a few more winks, he assumed the family's car-pooling
duties. "That's a shift for the single guy," Kenny said wearily
last Thursday afternoon, "but my wife loved sleeping in. She's
going to volunteer me for this duty when the Sydney Olympics
start." --J.W.

COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF NIKE

Winner

Al Michaels
Every 20 years Michaels calls a game for the ages. His best
moment on this night: "The St. Louis Rams are Super Bowl
champions. How does that sound? Unbelievable!"

Loser

Lesley Visser
We're not sure which was worse: Her green "majorette" outfit or
her giddy pregame piece, featuring Barbara Walters and Meredith
Vieira, which focused on their shared fascination with
tight-fitting uniforms.

A lot of soles are being moved by new multimedia ads that are
part Wile E. Coyote, part Marquis de Sade