Nike Pulls Oscar Pistorius ‘Bullet In the Chamber’ Ad Campaign

Nike may have pulled its current ‘I Am The Bullet In The Chamber’ campaign starring Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, but, like its Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods ads, in the world of the web that campaign will live forever.


The US sports giant acted fast to remove as many executions from media platforms as possible: including the Nike branded images of Pistorius on the sprinter’s personal website showing him setting off from the starting blocks..


Nike’s public reaction to the tragic events on Valentine’s Day was to back the legal system.


‘We believe Oscar Pistorius should be afforded due process and we will continue to monitor the situation closely,’ an official Nike spokesman said.


The brand was also quick to express its ‘deepest sympathy and condolences to all families concerned’’.


By Thursday, 21 February, Nike announced it had suspended its contact with the athlete, but reiterated that it believed ‘Oscar Pistorius should be afforded due process and we will continue to monitor the situation closely’.


South African Pay TV channel M-Net Movies, another sponsor of the 26-year-old star sprinter who denies the premeditated murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, also pulled its TV ad campaign featuring the athlete within hours of the tragedy.


The axed campaign included TV spots and billboards promoting Hollywood movies shown by the station which used the line ‘Every Night Is Oscar Night’ alongside a picture of the athlete holding a replica of the Oscar statue.


M-Net Movies official tweeted reaction was: ‘Out of respect and sympathy to the bereaved, M-Net will be pulling its entire Oscar campaign featuring Oscar Pistorius with immediate effect’’.


Indeed, the world’s media was quick to publish photographs of posters being taken down from billboards. Meanwhile, bloggers also publicly tracked the removal of the campaign’s images from sites across the web.


Other sponsors of the athlete, who is estimated to earn around £1.3m per year in endorsements, include BT, Oakley, and Ossur (the Icelandic company that makes his world-famous carbon-fibre blades). Most have used simple press releases to express sympathies for those involved and then distanced themselves from the Paralympic icon while they monitor proceedings.


Oakley’s comments were: ‘In light of the recent allegations, Oakley is suspending its contract with Oscar Pistorius, effective immediately. Our hearts are with the families during this difficult time and we’ll continue to follow the developments in this tragic case’.


While BT’s official response was to say that ‘Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy. Given the ongoing legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further’, while Ossur said it was “highly premature” to make any decisions regarding its relationship with him.


Thierry Mugler fragrances, for whom Pistorius fronts a fragrance campaign for A ‘Star’ Men also withdrew its current campaign featuring the athlete and said it was awaiting the outcome of Pistorius case.




Some may feel that in this case Nike’s choice of ad copy was risky, but the ‘Bullet In the Chamber’ line isn’t Nike’s only gun-themed execution in recent years.


Indeed another recent film featuring Pistorius and other South African athletes used the line ‘My body is my weapon. This is how I fight’



While other recent Nike communication featured the headline ‘We are on the offense. Always’.


Nike’s unfortunately-worded ads may have been quickly pulled, but they are likely to remain ‘live’ online forever.


A fact that merely further highlights the perils of celebrity-led brand endorsement strategies.


Nike’s recent endorser experiences – from the Tiger Woods sex scandals through Lance Armstrong’s drug confessions – show many of the dangers of athlete endorsement and brands now tend to act increasingly quickly to distance themselves from him.


Often they feel they can’t afford to wait until the case is heard.


But it seems unlikely that despite its three recent global ambassador nightmares, Nike, with annual revenues in excess of $24bn, will continue to spend tens of millions of dollars on ambassador sports sponsorships each year.


But no matter how detailed the background checks and or deep the character evaluations a brand carries out on its celebrity ambassadors there are no guarantees.


And yet, despite the danger, it continues to pursue a marketing strategy based around stars that seem to embody and reinforce its high-energy brand.


Just consider the size and scale of its recent deal with golfer Rory McIlroy which is reportedly worth between $100m – $125m over five years.




Nike ‘My Body Is My Weapon’ TVC YouTube



Nike Website



Oscar Pistorius Personal Website




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