The book ‘Nike Culture: The sign of the Swoosh’ written by Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson (1998) illustrates some of the crucial and critical aspects of social and cultural theory in the context of Nike to assess the impact of advertising in the society. It thoroughly analyses the way in which advertising image works. It presents the situations of Nike swoosh logo in regards to culture, political economy, semiotics and sociology. Authors explore the logic of sign economy and provide significant insights into cultural contradictions that are embedded in sports culture. The book is helpful for a range of courses related to media or sports.
The book covers the issues related to television advertising strategies of Nike taking a multi-textual approach. One of the major issues in sports marketing is how to actively engage individuality and diversity while maintaining the appeal through the concept of generality. By discussing the strategy of Nike, the book has given solutions to the issue. As described in the book, Nike has used transforming strategies for meta-communication. They include use of celebrities for spreading the Nike message, the empowerment of the alienated individual, the use of the alternative music, appropriation of the street sub-cultures, unorthodox advertising production techniques, and the importance of gender and race. They are the perfect examples of how Nike has engaged diversity, individuality and generality all at the same time (Goldman and Papson, 1998).
The book is consistent with the relevant course content on sports marketing. A multinational organization has to understand the cultural paradigm associated with marketing at the global level so that it can appeal to diverse cultures, communities and society. The book studies the aspect by regarding advertising as a rich cultural form. Furthermore, Nike is one of those highly popular and famous brands for which the logo has become globally recognizable. Nike swoosh logo is a symbol that is laden with distinctive as well as shared meaning. Nike advertising is no longer about just selling their product, but it is about keeping the sign swoosh highly valued as well as highly visible.
Advertising is seen as the vehicle for articulation of sign value of the brand. It reflects that advertising campaigns of the company provide meaning and visibility to the brand image. It also joins the product meaning with the meanings that are evoked by the imagery. Association of Michael Jordan with Nike reflected the activity of joining images of Jordan with the meaning of the symbol-swoosh. In general, consumer ads drive the consumers into fantasies of individualism. However, ads soon become predictable and boring with every advertiser using the same formula of product being distinctive and carrying individuality. Nike ads built on the reputation through their willingness to take chances in ads and no fear of being controversial. Nike has benefitted itself from the globalization of the commodity culture and sports culture. The book provides a message to other sports organization that a global brand has to be marketed in a way that appeals to local tastes (Goldman and Papson, 1998).
However, authors do not specifically discuss matters that are central to the operation of Nike, for instance sports marketing and the design aspects. Entire focus of the book is on advertising texts themselves. Discussions, such as the engagements with the political aspects associated with race and gender, and the mismatch between the gritty authenticity of Nike and the atrocities of the slave-labor outsourcing emerges as unsatisfactory because authors make no hard conclusions and choose the path of deconstructing yet another advertisement. Although, concepts of sports marketing are not covered in detail in the book, the universal lesson learnt through the textual analysis done in the book is that cultural innovation of the brand can be the cultural foundations of success of the brand.
Nike and its conjunction through its advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy have become the leaders in the concept of cultural economy of images. Therefore, if a brand is able to create a moment of identification for the viewer and gives the message that the brand is committed to something bigger than just the self-interest of selling the product, it adds an accumulated value to brand. The company then no longer needs to name itself. The symbol alone enough is able to brand the company and the associated imagery (Goldman and Papson, 1998).
The book is a detailed textual analysis of advertising strategies of Nike and explains how the symbol swoosh has remained constant while advertising strategies of the company kept on changing. It provides significant insight to the reader in terms of significance of the symbol for a global brand. Once the symbol becomes globally recognizable, sports marketing can be made approachable to intended consumers by bringing regular cultural innovations.
Goldman, R. & Papson, S. (1998). Nike Culture: The Sign of the Swoosh. London: SAGE.