Jan 3, 2013, 11:38 AM EDT
Launched on Dec. 19 to coincide with IIHF World Junior Championship, Nike’s “Hockey is Ours” ad features prominent pros like Alex Ovechkin, P.K. Subban and Steven Stamkos voicing their displeasure with the ongoing NHL lockout.
The upshot of the ad is that hockey can’t be taken away from us by Gary Bettman or the owners or anyone else, because we’ll play with frozen hamburger patties and twigs and whatever we have to to keep the game alive.
But when Nike tells us that “hockey is ours,” who are “we,” and is Nike even included in that conversation?
If you visit Nike’s Canadian site, the “Hockey is Ours” ad is the first thing on the home page. Visit the Nike’s U.S. site, and you won’t find it anywhere (you’ll need to open these in separate browsers to avoid getting re-directed). This alone really isn’t the point, even if 23 of the NHL’s 30 teams exist outside Canada and in the U.S.
Visit Nike.ca and Nike.com, and try purchasing a single piece of hockey gear.
Even visit the Nike Hockey twitter account that keeps tweeting the hashtag #HockeyIsOurs. You still won’t find anything.
That’s because Nike doesn’t sell hockey equipment. It hasn’t since it divested itself of Bauer in 2008, following resistance to its product.
Look at Ovechkin’s own example. He signed what his agent called a “long-term” deal with Nike in 2011 to support “all of the products that Nike makes — apparel, footwear, performance apparel, casual wear, accessories and other elements of the Nike family of products. So he will be wearing their performance product when he’s playing and practicing, when he’s training and in his lifestyle.”
And because Nike doesn’t make hockey equipment, Ovechkin, at the same time, signed a six-year agreement with the Nike’s former subsidiary, Bauer, for all his hockey needs — sticks, gloves, skates, etc. The things you actually need to play hockey, short of patties, twigs and thick socks.
Nike’s Jordan brand ran similar commercials during both the 1998-99 NBA lockout and the 2011 NBA lockout, seeking to capitalize on disgusted fan sentiment. But, at least in that case, the company could sell you a pair of high-tops.
When it comes to the NHL, Nike will market that hockey is yours, and then hope you hit the ice in a hyper-warm undershirt and a pair of cross-trainers.
Nike stopped marketing hockey products because it wasn’t a successful business venture. Marketing the idea of hockey, on the other hand, that is a successful business venture.
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