HIGHTOWER: Nike's Olympic PR Games
Time again for Hightower Radio's [Sports theme] "Wide, Wide, Wide, WILD World of Sports!"Today's feature: That sneaky sneaker-maker, Nike. Not content to flood the airwaves with its ads during the Winter Olympics and plaster its "swooshtika" logo all over the Olympians, Nike's marketing department hoked-up a couple of its own athletic "competitors" in a crude publicity stunt that makes a mockery of the Games.The company tried to steal a page from the 1988 Olympics, when some fun-loving guys from the balmy isle of Jamaica decided to defy the odds and pursue their sports dream by entering the "bobsled" competition. The anomaly of Jamaican bobsledders captured the public's imagination, and their athletic adventure even was made into a popular movie.To capitalize on the Jamaicans' success, Nike decided to manufacture a corporate version for this year's Olympics. Instead of Caribbean bobsledders, the company created African cross-country skiers, recruiting two Kenyans to play the role. The company laid-out some $200,000 to bivouac the two in Finland, hire a Finnish skiing coach for them, and train them in the basics.Sure enough, Nike got its Olympic moment. As one of Nike's Kenyans crossed the finish line dead last in the cross-country skiing event, the cameras were there to see the first-place finisher welcome him. Of course, the Kenyan had the company "swooshtika" prominently displayed on his cap, his collar and his sweater -- the perfect media pawn in Nike's cynical game.Once it was learned that the whole thing was a corporate farce, a company official trotted out to say: "Nike has always felt sports shouldn't have boundaries." Or integrity, either, apparently. Another official later said, hey, "we are a business, and part of our objective is to get attention."This is Jim Hightower saying ... They certainly got my attention ... the bums.