Nike mixes up North and South Carolina on T-shirt

The company wanted to promote the Carolina Panthers, but its shirt used a map of the wrong state for the team to the north.

By Aimee Picchi Jul 16, 2013 2:15PM

Nike t-shirt (© Nike via Advertising Age)North Carolina, South Carolina -- same difference, right? 

Apparently the states are interchangeable to Nike (NKE), which has proved not only to be one of the most effective sports-apparel marketers around but one of the most geographically challenged. 

Nike fumbled with a T-shirt (pictured) celebrating the Carolina Panthers, the football team based in North Carolina. It paired the team's logo with a graphic of South Carolina, Charlotte Observer columnist Scott Fowler reports.

Since the error was pointed out, Nike has pulled the link to the $32 shirt and is investigating the error. 

"It indicates that someone associated with Nike believed that the Panthers play in South Carolina. Or that North Carolina's silhouette looked like South Carolina. Or something," Fowler notes. 

Nike last year made another gaffe that managed to hit both cultural and geographical hot buttons. The company released a pair of limited-edition shoes called Black and Tan, which in the U.S. refers to a drink made with both Guinness and a pale ale. In Ireland, the reference isn't nearly as enticing, instead referring to a British paramilitary group that attacked civilians during the Irish War of Independence.

Nike isn't alone in struggling with geography. A 2006 survey from National Geographic found that only half of young adults ages 18-24 could identify New York or Ohio on a map. 

And then there's South Carolina's own geography whiz, the state's 2007 Miss Teen USA contestant, Lauren Upton. She became an Internet sensation after muddling a question about Americans' lack of geographical knowledge, babbling about lack of maps and adding that U.S. education "should help South Africa." 

Still, Nike's mix-up apparently touched a nerve with some of the team's fans. One commenter on Fowler's blog complained, "We still have to endure the name "CAROLINA Panthers" instead of the "CHARLOTTE Panthers," (as) it should have been in the first place."

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi. 

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Jul 16, 2013 3:56PM
How's that public school education working for you? Not very well apparently. In their defense, Nike is on the other side of he country from North Carolina and those Nike employees probably don't know how to use Google.
Jul 16, 2013 3:43PM
Well they did play in SC when they first started while their stadium in NC was being built.  Maybe they could sell it as a throw back shirt.
Jul 16, 2013 4:20PM
Looks like 57 states Obama helped with this one.
Jul 16, 2013 6:49PM
Employee at Nike: "Hey boss, something on this shirt doesn't look right.  Should we just leave it as is?"
Manager at Nike; "Just do it!"

Jul 16, 2013 6:48PM
What are they teaching in schools nowadays.  In the nineties, I used to watch "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" with my son, and marveled at how people could identify the countries in Africa.  Hard to believe this design made it to the manufacturing stage!  Guess fact checking has become too expensive.
Jul 16, 2013 6:27PM
It's too bad people are so ignorant on geography.  When I lived in NY years ago, and I had moved there from Oregon, I had at least one person ask me if Oregon was in the midwest?!!!  HUH??? 

Maybe they don't teach geography as well as they did when I was in school.

Jul 16, 2013 3:19PM
I believe most of us could explain the differences between North and South Carolina.  North and South Dakota are a bit more problematic, however. One has the oil and the other has the missle silos, right?  Or does ND have both and SD have neither?

Jul 16, 2013 3:10PM
it indicates that most of us know very little about a lot of things. and in the case of a huge company like nike, they probably do not care
Jul 18, 2013 3:31PM
The panthers actually represent both North and South Carolina! That's why it's called the CAROLINA panthers....
Jul 17, 2013 8:35AM
that's one ugly shirt, so hopefully they didn't make more than a handful of them anyways.
Jul 16, 2013 3:31PM

Since it is the Carolina Panthers, wouldn't it make since to have both states on the T-shirt?

Jul 16, 2013 5:08PM

I could've sworn when the Panthers joined the league, they were introduced as the CAROLINA Panthers... that they were going to represent both South and North Carolina as one even though their stadium is in Charlotte. 


I like the shirt... I don't think this was an accident at all.  

Jul 16, 2013 5:04PM
Barry Soetoro, what does your post have to do with a Nike T-Shirt other than to instigate something?
Jul 16, 2013 4:31PM
Jul 17, 2013 11:07AM
As ugly as the shirt is and as bad as the Panthers are, would it have sold well even with the correct state outline?
Jul 17, 2013 6:48AM
I've seen this story on several sites and countless tweets for 3-4 days. I doubt this was a mistake. 
Jul 17, 2013 5:21AM
the team is owned by a south Carolinian. not a charlottan. if anything the state on the shirt is right. they play in charlotte for monetary reasons.
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