When the U.S. Women's soccer team won the World Cup, Brandi Chastain booted the winning penalty kick and pulled off her jersey-revealing the black Nike Inner Actives sports bra given to team members as part of their uniform. While the moment of notoriety brought Nike much free media exposure for the new product-not yet in stores-the marketer was working on ads bringing another kind of scrutiny.
A print ad campaign scheduled to break in August from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, shows a frontal shot of a woman-neither a model nor a soccer player-without a shirt or a bra.
In the ads, a small diagram of the Inner Actives bra appears alongside the naked woman. "Exercise and tone every muscle in your body, except the one in your breast" is one headline.
Even though the ads are slated to appear inside magazines, at least one publisher requested Nike cover the nipples in issues that would appear on newsstands.
Conde Nast Publications Exec VP Catherine Viscardi Johnston said her company made such a suggestion to Nike.
"There's a very good chance [the issue] would be pulled off newsstands," she said. "There are some very conservative newsstand vendors who for some reason don't mind the articles we write, which can be of a very personal nature, but do object to visual nudity."
To avoid any risk of magazines being pulled off shelves and minimizing the audience for the Nike ads, Conde Nast executives counseled Nike to do two versions.
"They concurred, so we will have [the ad] with the exposed breast running in subscriber copies and one ad [with the breast] covered for newsstands," she said.
In the altered ads, hands or longer hair will be used to cover the nipples.
'A RETAILER PROBLEM'
Ms. Johnston believes other magazine companies would choose a similar solution.
"This isn't a Conde Nast problem; this is a retailer problem. Any magazine running the ads runs the same risk we do," she noted.
Nike's media buy includes Essence, Jane, Latina, Marie Claire and YM. Essence and Marie Claire, which initially rejected the ad, later accepted the unaltered version.
Nike saw a potential market for sports bras after surveying women who complained about their sports undergarments, such as lack of coverage, fit and sagginess. The marketer said Inner Actives (AA, March 22) improves comfort as well as reducing vertical motion by 30% as compared with rival products.
This campaign is the second Nike has produced using nudity to sell its clothing. In TV advertising that broke during the 1998 Super Bowl telecast, Nike showed naked athletes for its Nike F.I.T. apparel line.
NO WORLD CUP TV
There had been speculation that Nike would take footage from the soccer victory and make a TV spot. However, Nike has decided it will not do that.
"It would be so hard to put a commercial on the air in a short time," said Kathryn Reith, senior corporate communications manager for Nike, in explaining that only a quick turnaround would effectively tap the now-famous footage.