Nike, Twitter, and the ASA: new rules are required

A fifteen minute lunchtime download

Guardian Headline

It happened.

If you missed this in the press, Nike had their Twitter campaign banned because they were found to be in breach of the ASA’s online remit around transparency.

The ASA said –

“We considered that the Nike reference was not prominent and could be missed. We considered there was nothing obvious in the tweets to indicate they were Nike marketing communications.

In the absence of such an indication, for example #ad, we considered the tweets were not obviously identifiable as Nike marketing communications and therefore concluded they breached the [advertising] code. The ads must no longer appear. We told Nike to ensure that its advertising was obviously identifiable as such”.

You can read the full and thorough article over on The Guardian, however (and if you’ve already done that), for me, this finding throws up a whole other set of questions that I first started pondering nearly a year ago.

In this IAB post ‘Rules Rules Rules‘, from August 2011, five months after the ASA remit extension – I made the following argument:


“If we … think about the combined worlds of brand, celebrity and sport personality, for example – how do these new standards play out?

Case in point: Tiger Woods and Nike.

When we see Mr Woods teeing up at the PGA Tour, do we question that the Nike cap he chooses to wear is there for any other reason than advertising? No. Of course not. It’s an expectation. Something that we, as the viewing public, have grown to accept within this particular industry. It’s a given that this happens. However, it’s also assumed that – given his high profile nature – that this sponsorship must have happened. Why else would he be wearing the logo? And of course, there is no doubt that Nike put out a press release when this sponsorship was made – but how long ago was that? Tapping the word ‘ad’ on the tail of everything [paid for] that we publish is kind of silly really.”


Swap Tiger Woods for Wayne Rooney and we’re pretty much in line with what has happened here.

While I, as a social media practitioner and professional, wholly endorse legislation to correctly monitor and police this nascent marketing channel, I find it hard to not at least side slightly with Nike with their defence of:

‘…both players were well-known for being sponsored by the retailer which argued that Twitter “followers” would not be misled about the relationship it had with the players.’

The ASA’s sticking point?

‘It was understood from its investigation that the final content of the tweets was “agreed with the help of a member of the Nike marketing team“.’

It’s important to acknowledge this key point: Nike had a say in what was written by their sponsored sportsman. If they didn’t, then it wouldn’t be an issue, (right?).

Placing that aside

Everything that’s been written about social media has defined how different it is from the rest of the media types that have come before it; it changes the game.

The Snickers case [item 5], was found to be not in breach of the new remit. Nike, was. To say this is still very much a grey area would be an understatement and, as a result, the industry needs smarter, more fluid, regulations accordingly.

While HONESTY will always be your best marketing tool (thank you, Nicole), when one side thinks it was being true and the other thinks it wasn’t, an adult conversation needs to be had about consumer-wide understanding and acceptance of what sponsorship means.

And moreover, just how exactly celebrity sponsorship works together with social media.



5 things on Friday #10

Five things of note from the seven days preceding March 9th, 2012

1. Baked Sprouts
I love brussell sprouts. Always have, always will. But I have never, ever had them baked. Until now –

Baked sprouts? Lovely stuff.

The girl served these up last weekend and well.. all I can say is: wowsers!
Give them a go, definitely (and some other things too).

2. The Seven Patterns of Innovation
I’m reading ‘Where Good Ideas Come From‘ at the moment [it’s great, you should read it], and this passage

– speaks to me on a number of levels.

First and foremost, when you think about the semantic web, the intelligent web, the personal web, web 3.0 if you will, one is tempted to consider how ‘intelligent search’ (results served up to you based upon previous searches, conversations and location) could well be an adversary to information serendipity.

Google is probably the most guilty of all parties in this particular area [how often have you clicked past page one of the search results – really?] and this ‘feature’ will only improve with the arrival of Google+ (constantly tracking our every move across Google-related services). Of course, there are services that can aid the accidental discovery; StumbleUpon springs to mind, although even that requires a certain amount of input around your interests…

My issue is, as William McKeen, whose quote sits above this text, quite rightly points out – sometimes the joy is in the looking, the surprising finding, the enrichment of serendipity. And it is escaping us all. How does one fight to retain this disappearing pleasure? Read more books, more magazines… seek out the unknown and be endlessly curious.

At least, that’s what I’m going to do.

3. Is Google+ a ghost town?
Speaking of the big G, a huge conversation kicked off about numbers and usage last week when I asked my friends if they had an opinion on the above question. Even if you have only a passing interest in all things Google+, its users and/or its potential usage – I would recommend you take a look. You might be surprised at what you find.

4. Adele vs Daft Punk
Nuff said.

5. Snickers
Back in January the above chocolate bar ran a ‘campaign’ on Twitter that involved celebrities such as Katie Price and Rio Ferdinand tweeting about said snack [but without really letting people know they were being paid for it until the very last minute]. Five tweets were sent by each, but only on the fifth tweet did the celebs let their followers know that they were sponsored – via the esoteric hashtag ‘#spon’.

People complained.

You can read more about the complaint itself when it happened, however the key parts are as follows:

“Since they got paid for sending these tweets, the ASA is investigating whether the celebrities’ first ‘teaser’ tweets should have indicated that they were part of an advert, and if the ‘#spon’ in the last tweet made it clear enough that it was advertising”
The Drum

With me so far? Good. Well, there are (new) regulations to help monitor this sort of thing but, it turns out that post-investigation, the ASA found Mars not in breach of the code. Make of that what you will, but if you do any kind of brand work on or via social media, then the whole case is worth reading up on. The media are watching.

Bonuses: CDs, yes or no? Free coffee for being the Mayor on Foursquare at Taylor St Baristas; an amazing hidden track from M83 aaaaand a cupcake vending machine. 





1000heads: The IAB: Rules Rules Rules

As part of our active membership of the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) Social Media Council, it’s our duty to discuss, debate and disclose details and information about the issues facing the industry today.

Effective immediately, we’ll be contributing a monthly column to the IAB UK Social blog pages and that kicks off today with this blog post covering off the ASA’s new remit, Tiger Woods’ sponsorship with Nike and acceptance of modern day commercially arranged endorsements.

Get involved.

1000heads: Alert: The ASA CAP code

This afternoon, at the IAB’s ‘How to be safe and social‘ event, Malcolm Phillips from the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) pointed out that if a brand retweets a message from a user, then that content will fall under the soon-to-be-enforced CAP code.

This tweet, from the awesome Tia Fisher, has been shared multiple times already and nails the reaction of the brands and agencies in the room perfectly –

And, as the industry steps back and wonders what shades of grey they stand in, when March 1st comes around, it’s going to make for some very interesting times indeed.

If you’re tuning in right now, you can follow the conversation by searching twitter for ‘#iabuk’ – failing that, with our employees holding memberships on the both the DMA and IAB social media councils, as well as the President for WOMMA UK under our roof, stay tuned how these interpretations play out over the coming months; both from a social media angle and also from a larger, more holistic, word of mouth perspective.

Finally, if you’re wondering what the hell we’re on about, this advert (from the ASA themselves) should give you a fair idea —
In Digital? Know about this yet?

For even more information, check out this post from our very own Molly Flatt from September last year

“How will the ASA’s extended remit affect word of mouth?”

Your comments, as ever, are welcome.