January 11, 2004

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In a spare 2 minutes today I glanced through the SCMP magazine and there was an article on The BlackSpot Sneaker. What is it, I hear you ask. Put simply it's a sneaker made by a bunch of anti-globalisation trade activists as a means to dent Nike. Nike bought Converse last year, so these guys thought the best thing they could do was rip-off Converse's copyright and create a brand in the process. No doubt it's made in environmentally friendly, worker friendly somewhere-ville, USA. It's got a logo and ad campaign. It is essentially a competitor to Nike.

Let's take a second here. I'm not a big Nike fan but anyone that can convince people that sandshoes are worth forking out several hundred dollars a time deserves their money's worth. They copped a whole lot of pressure, some perhaps even deserved, for the factories that were making the shoes in Asia. It was fashionable to boycott Nike for using sweatshops. So Nike responded. They dedicate whole chunks of their website to "Responsibility" and there's a whole section on "Workers & Factories." Regardless that Nike helps provide (relative) good paying jobs to people who would other really be working in sweatshops for local businessmen. And that Nike, just like any large company, has to put up with constant sniping simply because it is successful. The best these anti-Nike groups can do is try and take Nike on at their own game.

I'm no expert on copyright law but if someone started selling Converse rip-offs, I'd be suing their backsides to kingdom come. I didn't pay a fortune just to see a bunch of hippies and anarchists try and make a buck of my hard work. Here's an excerpt from Blackspot's blurb:

For years, Nike was the undisputed champion of logo culture, its swoosh an instant symbol of global cool. Today, Phil Knight's Nike is a fading empire, badly hurt by years of "brand damage" as activists and culture jammers fought back against mindfuck marketing and dirty sweatshop labor.

Now a final challenge. We take on Phil at his own game - and win. We turn the shoes we wear into a counterbranding game. The swoosh versus the anti-swoosh. Which side are you on?

Adbusters has been doing R&D for more than a year, and guess what? Making a shoe - a good shoe - isn't exactly rocket science. With a network of supporters, we're getting ready to launch the blackSpot sneaker, the world's first grassroots anti-brand, with a ground-breaking marketing scheme to uncool Nike. If it succeeds, it will set a precedent that will revolutionize capitalism.

Try reading that and not laughing. What's an "anti-brand"? They "spent a year" ripping off Converse sneakers? They're going to "uncool Nike" with a canvas rip-off? "Revolutionize (sic) capitalism"? What, by exploiting and piggy-backing off Nike? And making money too?

I've never been a fan of anti-globalising, anti-trade, anti-capitalist idiots. These guys take the cake for hypocricy.

posted by Simon on 01.11.04 at 09:25 PM in the


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Actually this is very interesting. I wonder where they got the initial capital and labor inputs to make the first shoes. Are they going to (gasp!) make a profit? Then how are they planning on making further production runs. Unless they can sell a whole lot of shoes to people who would ordinarily buy Nikes (ie NOT their immediate circle of friends) they are not going dent Nike all too much.

I wonder if after all their time and effort they see how difficult it is actually running a business (even one where the idea is ripped off from an existing one). Will their foray possibly make them appreciate capitalism more?

Nah They will probably fail and blame it on some conspiracy by the Illuminati or the Elders of Zion or something.

posted by: kennycan on 01.12.04 at 02:48 PM [permalink]

Hi Simon. Thanks for posting on this. I hadn't heard of it before, and it's something I should know about. I research a whole lot of issues connected with labour in Asia, and I'm particulaly interested in the claim by a sports shoe company that they will produce an ethical product (in light of claims that Nike does not). I've emailed to ask them where they'll produce BlackSpot shoes, and why the production facility doing the job is ethical. I'll post something over at my site when I get a response.

Thanks again.


posted by: Stephen Frost on 01.14.04 at 01:48 PM [permalink]

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