A new Nike commercial this week plunged professional skateboarding managers into deep consternation, raising questions around the shoe colossus’ commitment to the extreme sport it has come to dominate.
The ad spot, depicting a youth abandoning his deck for a frenetic smorgasbord of team sports, sent shockwaves through the community of agents, publicists and social media curators responsible for marketing and managing professional skateboarders, some of whom feared the commercial hinted at Nike’s waning interest in action sporting spheres.
“Everybody’s on pins and needles,” moaned one agent who works closely with a journeyman goofy footer who is in the early stages of evaluating potential interest in pursuing discussions with sponsors such as Nike over a possible contract option.
The furrowed brows and chewed-over nails among skateboarding’s professional management sector spotlight how the industry has come to revolve around the Oregonian supplier of Janoskis, a top funder of skatepark construction, contest purses, hard-copy video releases, pro salaries and advertisements in what print magazines remain. Roughly 68% of all sponsored skaters are directly sponsored by Nike or somehow flowed their shoes, according to gussied industry watchers.
Nike’s new “Short a Guy” ad depicts a boy skating up to a neighborhood basketball court, where another kid explains the players are “short a guy” and quickly persuades him to join the game. The youngster rapidly is drawn into a succession of other games and races, pausing momentarily each time to outfit himself in new, sport-specific Nike gear. He eventually returns to his skateboard, but only to leave it behind again as he heeds the call of several pro ballers.
For some, the commercial seemed to compound concerns raised last month when Nike reported generating $736 million in action-sports product sales in its just-completed fiscal year, growing 4% over the previous year, well behind Nike’s overall 10% sales increase.
The commercial also arrived at a particularly sensitive time as Nyjah Huston was rumored to be negotiating a new and lucrative sponsorship agreement with Nike.
“I told these kids this would happen if they insisted on keeping on buying these other shoes,” groused Colnway Haffpuerg, a personal branding consultant and ‘next media’ e-stylist whose client roster includes several pro skaters. “Now look. Who’s gonna pay Gino? BA? What about all those kids, tomorrow’s pros who would have seen skating for the first time on the Street League broadcast? We’re losing a generation if we’re lucky, and maybe more.”
Several skateboarders at New York’s Nike-augmented Lower East Side skatepark, which some advanced internet flunkies already had begun to scour for cracks and weeds and other signals of lax upkeep, expressed confusion toward the commercial.
“Lacrosse, fam?” remarked a bearded driller who gave his name as Skinny Todd.
Longtime skeptics of Nike’s expanding profile and influence in the skateboarding sphere were quick to argue the ad confirmed years-long suspicions that Nike would inevitably pull out of skateboarding at some inopportune moment, leaving certain skaters “high” and various others “dry,” in favor of the more-established legacy sports that require more advanced and expensive shoes and equipment, and where Nike’s technological prowess can draw deeper distinctions between its products and those of rivals — versus pitting its vulcanized soles against those of less deep-pocketed competitors.
“Lacrosse, fam,” said Burt Ballwickey, an artist specializing in dinosaur tattoos who sported a vintage “Don’t Do It” tee to a local bar. “Everybody knew when Nike showed up 15 years ago they wouldn’t stick around when things went south, and now this commercial proves it.”
“And at the end — the football gives the board a final shove, as if to say, ‘the jocks won,'” Ballwickey ranted.
As Ebay footwear merchants deleted skateshops from their Quickstrike-focused RSS feeds and others hopefully floated DVD copies of ‘Nothing But the Truth’ at collector-level prices, professional skateboarding-focused image curators began calculating time left on luxury car leases and mulling vacation home refinancing options.
“I know how it sounds but in a way I feel like Dyrdek bears some of the blame,” said Millie Tidgette, a designer of custom Instagram tagging-bots for pro and am skaters. “They could’ve tried to bring back downhill for Street League. Or a doubles comp! Something, anything that would’ve allowed for some group of skaters to be short one person and be in that commercial and get that kid back on his board. But now — all is lost.”