Nike’s Epic Fail

Posted: April 5, 2011 in Facebook, Social Media

Yesterday, the highly paid marketing staff at Nike came up with a great idea for their Nike Golf Facebook page . . . a limited edition golf ball giveaway. The end result is proof positive that conventional wisdom does not apply to Social Media Marketing. So much talent, so little common sense. Clearly, Nike doesn’t get it yet.

Nike Golf has had its better days. A couple of years ago, their Tiger Woods line of clothing and his influence on their line of golf clubs, golf balls and accessories had positioned them in a place of elegant dominance. Nobody saw what was coming. To this day, Nike seems to be at a total loss as to how to recover from the fall of their icon, the most recognizable person in the world.

So, now it is Masters week 2011, the first Major golf tournament of the year and golf vendors are excited to use this well-publicized event to present their latest products. Nike is unveiling their new golf ball, the 20XI. Someone in Beaverton thought it would be a great idea to give out 65 sleeves of 3 “Limited Edition” Augusta 20XI balls to their loyal Facebook fans. After all, what could be better publicity than to give something away for free? What a great way to introduce these $50+/dozen beauties. Some intern in charge of the FB page pressed the “Enter” key and their promotion was off and running!

Within 30 seconds of the post, the balls were gone . . .

Within 45 seconds, fans were posting negative comments on how they responded within seconds of the post and the offer was gone or the site locked up on the final page of the entry process after being told they were one of the winners (I was among them).

Within one minute, Nike had a serious PR problem.

It was now too late to un-do what they had done. It was out there. People were upset. Or was it too late? I am staunch advocate of taking the bad with the good when it comes to fan comments, but this is one of the rare instances where I would recommend pulling the post quickly and cutting your losses. At the one minute mark, very few fans had actually seen the post, so by deleting it, Nike could have mitigated the damage to their public image with only a few hundred fans even knowing about it. But Nike had no plan in place for such a disaster. They simply froze.

I was one of the people who posted a negative comment on this campaign, pointing out their poor understanding of Social Media Marketing. I posted one comment on the promo offer page and another on their main page, with a link referencing my recent post on how to use incentives in Facebook marketing. Within 2 hours, both of my comments had been deleted. Oddly enough, I was no longer a fan of the Nike Golf page! THEY dumped ME as a “Like!” I went back through the comments and found that many of the negative comments had been selectively removed (presumably as were their “Like” statuses), leaving a smattering of the least damning comments in place to keep it credible.

Last night Nike posted a comment amongst the other comments apologizing for the confusion and promising to deliver the same giveaway today and tomorrow to make up for their guffaw. Albert Einstein would have a heyday with this insanity. They did not pull the post, but instead changed the page (see screenshot below – incidentally, there is no way to “Like” this page as they suggest). They also eliminated the option for fans to be able to post to their main page!

While I am expecting a “cease and desist” order to arrive faster than Nike can run out of free golf balls, I want to use this example while I can to show how not to use Social Media in your marketing arsenal. Here are my Do’s and Don’ts:

DO :

  • Understand that “conventional wisdom” does not apply in Social Media Marketing
  • Carefully plan out your marketing campaigns on Facebook and consider all negative reaction potential
  • Plan for disaster
  • Monitor your posts immediately and in frequent intervals (if you have over 10K fans, monitor the first hour diligently)
  • Be ready to “cut and run” quickly if your campaign runs into trouble
  • Test your posts to make sure that they work properly and do not lead to dead-ends”
  • Allow a 24 hour entry time for any giveaway to generate goodwill
  • Accept the fact that Social Media will generate negative comments – use the comments to improve your weaknesses
  • Learn what works (and what doesn’t) from other’s Facebook pages


  • Think that just giving away something creates good will for your company – it could easily do more harm than good
  • Use instant giveaways that only benefit those on-line at that particular moment – you are not a radio station
  • Make promises that you can’t keep – EVER
  • Believe that “any publicity is good publicity”
  • Think that your company is too big or too good to be able to be hurt by a botched campaign
  • Selectively delete negative comments from your posts


Shortly after publishing this post, I went back to see if Nike would repeat yesterday’s debacle. They sure did! Same result with even angrier comments. Comments were shut off after one hour. Nike . . . give away a Facebook coupon or something . . . PLEASE? This is getting embarrassing!



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