SBD/August 23, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Controversy Over $300 LeBron Shoes Continues; Is Nike Sending Wrong Message?

National Urban League President & CEO Marc Morial is continuing to urge Nike to drop its plans to release a version of Heat F LeBron James' new shoe, the LeBron X, that retails for more than $300. Morial appeared on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” yesterday and said it is the "wrong message for Nike to send to parents that there’s some value in a $300 sneaker." The idea that people "have gotten into fights and altercations over sneakers might shock some people’s conscience, but these sneakers have become -- in many respects -- a status symbol." Morial: "You have to have a certain type of sneaker to belong to a certain group.” The Urban League is asking Nike to "be responsible about this, take a pause and consider the effects of a $300 sneaker.” Nike execs spend "a lot of money promoting a very responsible image of themselves, and, consistent with the image that their advertising promotes in this instance, pausing and revaluating this product at this price at this time is the thing any responsible corporation would do.” CNBC's Sue Herera noted Nike does plan to release several versions "of this sneaker, one of which will be lower priced” (“Power Lunch,” CNBC, 8/22). SportsNet N.Y.’s Eamon McAnaney noted there are a "lot of sociological discussions about this: Too expensive, the kids who want to buy them can’t afford it." McAnaney: "I absolutely agree with that. But at the same point, people get robbed for their iPhones and iPods, and no one blames Apple.” SportsNet N.Y.’s Marc Malusis said, “The standard version is $185 dollars. If there's a fool out there that's willing to spend that $315 dollars for a pair of sneakers, God bless” (“The WheelHouse,” SportsNet N.Y., 8/22).

NUMBERS GAME: In Las Vegas, Ed Graney writes, "The fact that an athlete's shoe is flirting with the once unimaginable price of $300 shouldn't send shock waves through anyone's wallet." If it "knows anything, Nike understands the math on this stuff." Nike owns 95% of the basketball shoe market in the U.S., and "retail for its hoop shoes costing more than $100 is up 50 percent." Graney: "I blame James for the ridiculous price and I don't. I get it. The power of capitalism. The basic supply-and-demand strategy" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/23). However, CNBC’s Julia Boorstin said, “The problem is marketing and that Nike is marketing these shoes to teenagers and often to teenagers in inner-cities who can’t afford them. I think that Nike does pride itself on its corporate responsibility, they just have to be really cautious how they handle the marketing issue” ("Power Lunch," CNBC, 8/22).
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