Sportswear Giant Says Case Is a Warning to Others

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- Nike is drawing a line in the sand for marketers and advertising agencies considering taking too much inspiration from the innovative advertising campaigns developed by its agency, Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

The Beaverton, Ore.-based sports apparel giant in February sued Sega of America and its advertising agency, Leagas Delaney, San Francisco, alleging copyright infringement and unfair competition.

$100,000 donation
The suit was settled

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this week, with Sega agreeing to donate $100,000 in Nike's name to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland, Ore., and Memphis, Tenn. Sega issued a statement of apology, lauding Nike as a "visionary company" and a "pillar of creative strength." Sega also agreed to stop airing the spot, which broke in January.

Nike spokesman Scott Reames said copycats borrowing aspects of Nike work often say they are attempting to parody the original spots. But as the recent lawsuit shows, Nike "wanted to put a line in the sand," he said.

Executives at Leagas said the Sega spot was something of a homage to a 1996 Wieden commercial, "Frozen Moment," with Michael Jordan in a Chicago Bulls-Los Angeles Lakers NBA sequence. As Jordan gets ready for a slam dunk, the action turns to slow motion, and as TV viewers watch transfixed, they are oblivious to accidents occuring around.

Sega's spot for its Sega Sports NBA 2K2 video game was almost scene-for-scene the same as the Wieden ad, Nike alleged.

Not an homage
Mr. Reames, however, said he did not buy the homage or parody propositions. Some "have said their ads are parody and others have borrowed parts of our ads," he said.

Mr. Reames declined, however, to indicate just how aggressive Nike would be in defending its commercials' creative content in the future.

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