The relationship that spawned "Just do it" is becoming less important as Nike is forced to focus its attention beyond the U.S.
Never mind whether the Dennis Hopper crazed referee ads work. Wieden, with offices in only Portland, Ore., and Amsterdam, may lose some U.S. creative work this year, a Nike insider said.
Wieden President Dan Wieden and Nike President Thomas Clarke haven't spoken for months, the insider said, because of a minor misunderstanding that's symptomatic of the chasm developing as Nike grows.
The agency was involved in the soon-to-break $60 million, revived "Just do it" effort that includes a Spike Lee-directed spot featuring Michael Jordan and Mr. Lee reprising his Mars Blackmon fanboy character.
At the SuperShow in Atlanta last week, Nike VP-Marketing Liz Dolan said the refocus on the 1988 mantra that made Wieden famous was not a repudiation of the agency, but a shift back to image from product-focused advertising.
However, she went on to say: "There was a time just three years ago when we and Wieden had the space to be more off the wall ... But different times call for a different strategy." Mr. Wieden did not return phone calls last week.
Ms. Dolan said she and Joseph McCarthy, Nike's North American advertising director, had given Wieden the edict to reinvigorate "Just do it," used only infrequently in recent years.
An insider said Mr. McCarthy has been charged with bringing Nike's
ads into sharper focus.
Longtime Nike adman Scott Bedbury, who has since left for personal reasons, last year wooed Mr. McCarthy from his job as Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising's senior VP-management director in New York.
While Wieden won accolades for "Just do it," the agency still is viewed by many as Nike's house shop. Wieden lost the nearly $100 million Subaru of America account after just two years and the jury is still out on its first image campaign for Microsoft Corp.
Further, there's talk that comments within Wieden about Microsoft being "where the future of the agency lies" got back to Nike.
Wieden has obviously taken note, and is now trying to take Nike media buying from SFM Media, New York. Indeed, industry speculation is that the winner of one of the Far East reviews will take over buying from SFM.
Nike is reviewing agencies in China (with McCann-Erickson Worldwide, working with Wieden; Saatchi; and J. Walter Thompson Co. participating) and Japan ( JWT, Dentsu and DIK). The reviews reflect the marketer's decision to go with intense, country-by-country marketing rather than regional efforts.
Nike undoubtedly is hearing Reebok International's footsteps. For the fiscal year ended May 31, Nike had international sales of $1.32 billion; Reebok's for the year ended Dec. 31 were estimated at $1.29 billion. With 33% U.S. market share, Nike has a comfortable lead over Reebok's 27%, but the domestic market has seen little growth in the past three years.
In dumping Chiat (AA, Sept. 20, 1993), Reebok cited the agency's inability to meet the marketer's global needs, and boldly set forth a goal of being the No. 1 sports and fitness brand in the global athletic shoe market by 1995.