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NIKE/MICHIGAN DEBATE: SELLING OUT OR SMART INVESTMENT?
Published September 1, 1995
Coverage of the multi-million Nike deal to outfit the Univ. of Michigan has renewed since the football team debuted the Nike swoosh on their jerseys. Since the deal was announced last October, UM's Athletic Dept said they have received only one complaint. Bruce Madej, spokesperson for UM's Athletic Department: "All I can say is it was a way to get all of our sports under one umbrella." But James Tobin writes that "a grumble or two could be heard" when the team took the field last week against UVA in the Pigskin Classic season opener (DETROIT NEWS, 9/1). ONE ALUM'S OPINION: In Portland, J.E. Vader writes, "Has the University of Michigan sold its very soul to the dark forces of the netherworld? And for too low a price?" With the visible Nike swooshes, the "players seemed like so much branded cattle." Compared to the reported figures for tennis players like Andre Agassi, the Michigan deal "looks like peanuts." The deal "bothers more than a few people," according to Vader, as UM regent Laurence Deitch said the school was "letting a shoe company piggyback on the 170 years of tradition to peddle some shoes." Deitch said he "was appalled" by the deal, calling it "a step too far in commercialism." Vader: "You can't begrudge the people at Nike for being smart and wanting to make money," but adds it hurts those "who cling to the illusion that universities are for education. ... and then there's commercial ads right on their bodies. It's not just desecration. It's just bad taste" (J.E. Vader, Portland OREGONIAN, 8/31). DO IT FOR THE KIDS: The marketing of street hockey by Nike and other companies to urban youth is profiled by Robin Givhan of the WASHINGTON POST. New York marketing expert Marian Salzman says to "make a product hip and desirable to a young market, it helps to have black urban kids on your side," as they help many trends "gain momentum." Givhan writes that "in today's media- saturated politicized climate, marketing a new sport to a minority or financially strapped audience is a tremendous balancing act. Social conscience vs. bottom line" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/1).