Viral marketing and word of mouth is all the buzz these days, especially with platforms like YouTube enabling levels of fame and exposure never before thought possible. And, if the video sharing site could make a skateboarding dog famous, imagine what it can do for companies with money to pour into creative content and production.
That’s basically what Nike did in making this YouTube video of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant leaping over a moving sports car to market its latest and greates, lighter-than-air basketball shoe. With approximately 2.5 million views to-date, it’s safe to dub this effort a viral marketing success–but not so fast. Despite its obvious dramatization, there has been an outcry among critics, many of whom believe that the video threatens the safety of gullible viewers who try to recreate the gravity-defying stunt in their own driveways. Of course, the “do not try this at home” disclaimers in the video do nothing to mitigate their harsh judgment, and Nike execs must now field questions and address complaints.
The situation raises a few questions. First, is all PR good PR? The video has been widely viewed, making it a success by those simple measures. But will the fallout outweigh the benefits?
Personally, I find it ridiculous that people hold a video like this one responsible for the actions taken by uninformed (read: unintelligent) consumers. Yes, I understand that children are most susceptible to incurring injuries from trying to soar like Kobe, but saying that Nike is to blame would be like holding Blendtec (of “Will It Blend?” fame) accountable if some kid tested the theory on the family dog.
The other, more PR-oriented question is that of authenticity: Should Nike have been more clear that this was a “Hollywood-ified” video fueled not by superhuman powers, but by special effects? Anyone with deductive reasoning skills would reach that conclusion (besides the limitations imposed by gravity, athletes with multi-million dollar contracts aren’t usually allowed to throw themselves willingly in front of moving vehicles), but maybe a “this is a dramatization” would have been a good opener. When book-ended with that disclaimer and the “do not try this at home” warning, the video covers all its bases. If anyone manages to still find reason to believe they can emulate the stunt, then perhaps it’s best to defer to Charles Darwin. When it comes to survival of the fittest, only the strong will survive.
By Courtney Barnes