Lars Voedisch, Founder and Managing Director of PRecious Communications was featured in Marketing Interactive’s ‘Branding News’ section on Feb 22, 2019, in an article titled ‘Nike cops flak after basketball player’s shoe splits during the game’. Nike found itself embroiled in a controversy after a Duke University basketball player, Zion Williamson’s shoe split, only 33 seconds into the game that caused him a sprained knee. The video of the split shoe was circulated all over the Internet, evoking reactions from prominent personalities across the world, including former US President Barack Obama.
“Mild knee sprain for Zion Williamson, major injury to Nike? Signing to be an exclusive merchandise supplier for a sports team, comes with an added responsibility to ensure that the products are of “exceptional quality.” Find out the extent of damage that Nike faces over this incident.
Here is Lars’ comment as featured in Marketing Magazine’s article ‘Nike cops flak after basketball player’s shoe splits during the game.’
“It is not the “end of the world”, especially for a brand such as Nike. It is unlikely that Nike’s popularity within the sport will be affected, given its prominent standing and solid brand value.”
“Signing to be an exclusive merchandise supplier for a sports team, comes with an added responsibility to ensure that the products are of “exceptional quality”. This incident will serve as a wake-up call and ensure that the products supplied to sports teams are thoroughly checked before dispatch.”
“What Nike is experiencing can be severe and go way beyond becoming a meme or be trolled online, potentially wiping out billions in market value. This also provides a case for liability, negative social sentiment and loss of sales,” he said.
Why Are We Talking About Zion Williamson’s Shoe Split?
When it is about restoring brand reputation after a PR disaster, it is tricky, especially when it concerns safety issues, as in the case of Nike. At this point, the way the brand handles public communications following the incident is of utmost importance.
The very first step that a brand must take is to reaffirm its commitment to consumer safety and making its stance known to the public. While Nike called it “an isolated occurrence”, it is not enough. When it comes to dealing with a PR crisis, compassion is extremely important. Your audience, be it, consumers, stakeholders or employees – are people. Repairing a failing brand image requires empathy and a little time.
Although companies like Toyota and Uber have also faced similar issues, they have bounced back with the right strategies. It is essential to focus on ‘safety-first’ and be open about what you are doing to regain the trust of your consumers.
While brand equity does compensate (to an extent) for the damage, remember no matter how good or trusted you are, you never know when a PR crisis strikes.