This Nike Slogan May be Over the Line

By Dirk Hanson 06/22/11

Nike’s “Get High” campaign infuriates Boston’s Mayor.

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They mean like on a mountain.
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“Just Do It,” Nike used to urge us, and while officially, “it” referred to shoes and extreme sports, it also quite obviously referred to sex. This is advertising, after all. So how about the new slogans, tied, the company said, to an upcoming action sports campaign. “Get High,” say the new Nike T-Shirts in the store windows. “Dope,” says another. “F Gravity,” yet another Tee proclaims. It’s cute, it’s kicky, and while it’s about climbing mountains and leaping about in Nike footwear, it’s also about taking drugs. Where you stand on that proposition probably hinges on whether you or anyone you know has ever had a drug problem.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, known locally as the “Urban Mechanic” for his emphasis on neighborhood quality of life issues, has talked a lot about ethnic health disparities, nutrition programs, and aggressive substance abuse treatment during his tenure. So when he walked past a Niketown on Boston’s Newbury Street, and saw the message to “Get High,” he went ballistic. “They are promoting drug use,” said Menino in the Boston Herald. “This is the wrong message for Nike to send.”

The store was closed when he witnessed the window display, so the mayor sent a furious letter to Nike headquarters, fuming that their “window display of T-shirts with drug and profanity wordplay are out of keeping with the character of Boston’s Back Bay, our entire city and our aspirations for our young people . . . not to mention common sense.”

John McGahan, president of a local substance abuse treatment center, called the move “totally irresponsible” in the Herald. “Do they have any idea of the epidemic of prescription medication and drug abuse in the city?”

When a city is already hip-deep in drug problems, perhaps the requisite sense of ironic humor; the wink-wink, nudge-nudge of drug innuendo, just isn’t there any more. Perhaps, on that topic, local residents have just run out of funny.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]

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