Is Nike's advertising cursed?

The athletic shoe maker is pulling an ad featuring Olympic runner and alleged murderer Oscar Pistorius. The company seems to have terrible luck with athletes.

By Aimee Picchi Feb 15, 2013 12:56PM

Nike (NKE) can't catch a break with its athletic sponsorships. Each year seems to bring scandal to its roster of sponsored athletes, including Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. 

Now another Nike-sponsored athlete has fallen from grace: Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee South African runner who on Thursday was charged with murdering his 30-year-old girlfriend. She died of gunshot wounds.

Nike yanked an ad on Thursday that featured the runner in a green and black bodysuit while running on his prosthetics, according to Advertising Age. The ad bears the unfortunate tagline, "I am the bullet in the chamber."

The ad's copy has a chilling and unintended resonance after the death of Pistorius' girlfriend, especially given that the runner is charged with firing the gun. Pistorius is a gun enthusiast, according to The New York Times.File photo of Oscar Pistorius in September 2012 ( Sebastian Widmann/dapd/AP Photo)

"Nike extends its deepest sympathy and condolences to all families concerned following this tragic incident," the company said in a statement following Pistorius' arrest. "As it is a police matter, Nike will not comment further at this time."

It's not the first time Nike's ads featuring a onetime sports hero have taken on unfortunate overtones after a scandal. 

Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, who admitted to doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, made this ad for Nike in 2001. Armstrong asks viewers, "Everybody wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?"

Apparently, the rest of us were riding on the presumption that we could believe Armstrong, who told Winfrey last month that he in fact was using drugs at the time the ad was taped, from the late 1990s into the early 2000s. 

Nike pulled its sponsorship of Armstrong in October after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency detailed allegations about his usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

Tiger Woods also proved controversial for Nike. After the golfer admitted cheating on his wife, Nike decided to stick with Woods. The difference? Woods achieved his athletic success without cheating, while Armstrong resorted to drugs, notes

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Feb 15, 2013 1:57PM
Maybe it is the other way around and doing a Nike add curses you.
Feb 15, 2013 6:13PM

Maybe we just spend too much time, money and energy with the "hero worship" thing that seems to go along with athletic talent, or any kind of publicity.  (Can you say "Kardashian"?)  Maybe we should spend more time and energy paying attention to important stuff that's happening in our lives, our families and our communities and forget worshipping these celebrities.  I quit buying Nike products a long time ago because Nike endorses hero-worship by signing primadonna athletes to overly-lucrative endorsement deals. 

Feb 15, 2013 1:43PM
Celebrities of all types are basically scum.
Feb 15, 2013 4:12PM
So lets see...Nike dropped Armstrong because he cheated with enhancement drugs...but Nike didn't drop Tiger because he only cheated on his wife...on numerous occasions.    Get it together Nike.       
Feb 18, 2013 3:44PM
I never buyNike products. Nike was one of the first outsourcing companies from the seventies.their first shoes cost $15.00 to make and they sold them to retailers for $35.00 and they all were produced overseas. Nike just designed the shoes in Beaverton, Oregon but had them made overseas by foreign labor. The stores then sold those same $35.00 shoes for up to $180.00, totally ludicrous if you ask me!!
Feb 15, 2013 2:54PM
Thy have had great luck with athletes WTF.  The Bo Knows ads were great and all the MJ ads. They can only list 3 athletes that have taken wrong turns.  And 2 of the three they jumped on the bandwagon about.  At least with Woods not only did they have a new market to exploit but also they sponsored him for years before he got caught with an infidelity that has no impact on his career, unlike Armstrong who has a lifetime ban and this guy that could end up in jail for life or the death penalty.
Feb 15, 2013 5:19PM
This is more of a "Protect Our Butt" move.

First: I honestly don't know all the facts with what this guy did. So I'm not jumping on ANY bandwagon saying he is guilty or innocent. Smart move is to wait and see THEN comment.

Second: Nike is doing just that: Waiting for all the facts. Nike had NO idea what Lance Dope-Strong or Tiger Woods was doing behind closed doors. So why should Nike take any heat for pulling the ads after finding out that these people did?

Third: Lance is a coward and a cheater. Tiger? He cheated on his gal, but nothing near in the same league what Dope-Strong did. Oscar Pistorius? I'll wait and see before I cast judgement.

Finally: If a company doesn't want a part of a controversy, it's their right to pull ads. So, is it a trend that Nike picks lightning rods? No. It's coincidental.

Feb 15, 2013 3:33PM
They never pulled any ad with the most lecherest golfer of all time. Why not? Its all about the money baby! It always is!
Feb 15, 2013 4:28PM
if he was a Politician..He would still be getting paid...still in office and  his legal bills would be paid by us..the tax payer!
But Nike ran like hell from him....!
Feb 15, 2013 4:31PM

The idiot in the video makes the comparison says South Africa is a heavily armed society, and is a very violent society. Then he continues with the comparison, "People have guns there, like we have tennis racquets".

I couldn't help but guffaw at those statements.

He couldn't possibly live in the United States, could he?

Lost all credibility, with a few well-chosen stupid statements.

Luck has nothing to do with it, they just endorse most of the worlds greatest atheletes..  
Feb 18, 2013 11:39PM
Nike is a terrible and very stupid company that insults the intelligence of respectable consumers, and has been doing so for many years.  I have not purchased ONE Nike item since they signed Michael Jordan to endorse them. Nike items are not allowed in my home, and I will not give one cent to that company. Their curse is who they pay to endorse them, and who their target market is. I hope they go out of business.
Feb 18, 2013 11:38AM

Maybe Nike should change their motto.  'Just Do It'.  It looks like that's exactly what Oscar did.


Feb 18, 2013 10:58AM
Perhaps Nike needs to re-consider who they use in their ads and focus more on the average-Joe-or-Jane who relates better to the real world. Athletes and celebrities come and go, most with more baggage than you and me. Who cares about hero-worship and the ga-zillionaires who have more money than sense, the famous face on the ad does not influence my buying choices. What most consumers care about is a quality product at a realistic price, there are much better products out there with better value for your dollars. 
Feb 17, 2013 12:56PM
NIke never pulled the plug on PORN boy Tiger Woods.  Frick Nike.
Feb 19, 2013 9:06PM
where do you get off saying South Africa is a violent society....!?  you are expressing your very wrong own opinion. If you ever visit South Africa, please apologize for your uninformed views after you experienced our country. ugly little troll
Feb 15, 2013 3:39PM
At least Lance was an athlete, wood is a golfer!
Feb 15, 2013 9:14PM

Nike has a lot of top athletes, as well as upcoming athletes, under its sponsorship.  Nike's losses are manageable compared to the profits generated by the athletes for it. Otherwise, it will not be sponsoring top athletes anymore. Top athletes are psychologically tough on their sport-sides but fragile on their real life-sides. They have to believe in themselves, as the best among the best, to  workout really hard, thus giving them the best opportunity to succeed. They spend the  majority of their formative lives focused on their crafts and set aside normal lives. These breed cocky sports heroes, fueled by the adulation of fans, who are sensitive wimps against criticisms. This sense of infallibility makes them act in ways that no ordinary wo/man  will.

Feb 15, 2013 3:38PM

woods achieved his success wihout cheating?????

WTF he cheated zillion of times with ho's on his wife and he cheated with PED's that has not been brought out yet. Lance wasn't known for cheating and they never really caught him. They never tested woods! Or they never caught him taking PED's but I'm betting the family farm he's been doing PED's for years.

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