Is this ‘True’ Corporate Responsibility, Nike?

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BeTrueNike1Nike’s (NYSE: NKE) 2008 “Be True” campaign, showcasing local designers with an urban aesthetic is a new take on the brand’s “Dunk” campaign – part of Nike’s effort to lure and retain an audience that demands increasing authenticity from the brands with which it chooses to truck. The Be True campaign’s informal design grid and individualized graphic narratives create a pastiche that feels original and spot-on for the capricious millennial crowd. The campaign website provides a broad, all-encompassing look at product and design, while a four-part series of magazines dropped on street corners surrounding college campuses makes up a guerilla street marketing approach. While we were initially moved by of Nike’s “Be True” magazine campaign, upon reflection, we’re not sure it’s quite so true at all. While the brilliant design execution demonstrates that Nike’s firmly in touch with the Dunk’s roots (whether real or imagined), some of the implementation seems a little too old-school.

How many trees does it take to create all these copies of the 11×17 “Be True” magazine? Who’s left to deal with the leave-behinds? And does “Be True” belie Nike’s recurring challenges and criticism across its global manufacturing reach? Recently, Hannah Jones, Nike’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, defended breaches of Nike’s Code of Conduct at the Malaysian Hytex factory only after “…an investigation revealed workers living in substandard housing and wages being garnished.” Does “Be True” really reflect Nike’s roots, or is another flex of the brand’s marketing muscle? Our belief is that while customers may embrace this campaign, they’ll do it while demanding more accountability – and more truth – from the corporation.

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