OPINION: Mills on ... Nike

On one level, you have to admire the sheer chutzpah with which Mrs Beckham is attempting to appropriate trademark rights to the word "posh" from Peterborough United, a club that has been known as that to its fans for 60-plus years.

On another, it's the kind of behaviour that makes me despair, and the trouble is that it's a product of the brand-obsessed world we all live in and which, we might reflect, we have played our role in creating. It's both ridiculous and tragic. Mrs B's monthly spend on Gucci probably dwarfs Peterborough's annual wage bill. How arrogant do you have to be to imagine that anybody might possibly confuse the two?

From Mrs B to Nike (bear with me). "Puddles" is the latest masterpiece from those lovely folks at Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam. A couple goes out for a Sunday morning jog. It turns into a mock water-fight. He pushes her into a puddle; she pushes back. At every opportunity they try to splash the other, each attempt more outrageous. As they race towards a giant puddle, a coach appears from a side street. Splat! They are drenched.

Guess what? It turns out to be the Manchester United coach. Inside, Sir Alex and a group of players smile and settle back in their seats. They probably had a little bet on that.

From start to finish, the ad is a joy. Exuberant and playful, it has a lovely lightness of touch. Personally, I'd rather sit through 27 consecutive media agency presentations on TV optimisation strategies than go jogging, but I can begin to understand the appeal after this ad.

That's some achievement. Hitherto, the Nike brand has left me ambivalent.

On the one hand, I admired its daring. On the other, I felt there was a dark, aggressive edge to it. If it suited Nike's agenda, it would buy whatever or whoever it wanted. Nike epitomised the potentially corrosive influence of big money on sport. And that's before you even get into all the Cambodian child labour stuff.

Lately, however, as reflected by its advertising, Nike has shown a softer, more engaging side. First, there were the Brazilian footballers having a kickabout in the airport. More recently we had the ad in which grown-ups played street tag for no reason other than it was fun. Goodness, I was getting to quite like the people at Nike.

Only then they go and spoil it all with a ridiculous assault on Scottish Courage over the wonderful Peter Kay ad for John Smith's in which he club-footedly hacks a ball over the fence.

For those who missed it last month, Nike has written John Smith's a stern lawyer's letter accusing it, essentially, of taking the piss. They don't like the similarities between John Smith's horseshoe logo and their own swoosh. They don't like the way Kay says "just 'ave it". And they particularly resent the fact that he is a fat, beer-drinking slob, fearing that this reprehensible creature will bring disrepute to their own brand of sporting excellence.

The charitable might ascribe this to a lawyer-like sense-of-humour failure. Others might find it a case of corporate solipsism gone mad. How self-centred do you have to be to imagine that anyone would associate Nike with John Smith's, or imagine that it in any way endorsed the beer?

Some might also wonder how it is that Nike presents itself in its advertising as playful, while its corporate actions are that of a 900-pound gorilla with a soul as cold as ice. As with Nike, so with Posh Spice. This is trademark-itis gone mad, corporate bullies landgrabbing every piece of intellectual property they can, and never mind who gets in the way or how ridiculous they seem. Let us hope they both fail, humiliatingly and publicly.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Yes, if you just focus on the ad.

File under ... T for two-faced, miserable sods.

What would the chairman's wife say? "Just get a life."

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