One of the most common phrases in marketing and public relations is: “any press is good press.” Although there are distinct challenges to this idea, Nike recently showed us the role a brand should play in responding when things don’t go your way.

Without question, Nike is one of the most well-known brands in the world and they’ve achieved this through athlete endorsements.

Growing up, I saw all of the superhuman things Michael Jordan did on the basketball court. While I barely left the ground when I jumped (being 6’5″ helped), I typically grabbed a Gatorade on my way home from practice or a game.

Why not grab a water I wonder…

Across all of their athletic brands, Nike spends over $1 billion per year on athletic endorsements. A number that generally increases by more than 10% a year, which is slightly faster than the company’s sales have grown.

That is a lot of money.

Because of this huge investment in endorsements, you can understand how upset they were when one of their greatest sponsored athletes, Serena Williams, was told she could no longer wear the black Nike catsuit that she donned during the French Open.

 

Nike created the catsuit for Serena, who gave birth to her first child in September of 2017. The suit was designed out of medical necessity to help prevent blood clots while she played at such a high level. However, the president of the French Tennis Federation recently stated that the outfit would no longer be acceptable to wear because “you have to respect the game and the place.”

sure

Imagine Nike’s disappointment when they received the news that their latest revolutionary product, one that could open up a HUGE new category for active new moms, will no longer be endorsed by an incredible athlete.

Nike could have responded with a press statement in support of Serena, or they could have just moved on and created something new (which they will).

However, Nike understands that their celebrity endorsements work both ways and they responded in a simple, dignified that way that not only further aligned their loyalty with the athlete but worked as a compelling ad for their partnership with Serena Williams. Their post on Twitter immediately gained traction online through various channels and blogs and gave the brand a tremendous amount of positive press after what would normally be a big set back to their marketing.

Game. Set. Match.