Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Just blew it

One Sunday in 1997 my routine stumble around Hackney Marshes suddenly got interesting, theoretically. The normally spectatorless raggle-taggle games of football suddenly had a few people milling around. I asked a fellow stumbler what was occurring and he said that Ian Wright and Eric Cantona were playing. What kind of an idiot would believe that? Needless to say I didn’t stay to watch the filming of Nike’s iconic Parklife commercial.

There are a lot of great things about living next door to Hackney Marshes – picking out your house from a plane, being on the Eastenders map, gathering blackberries and sometimes mushrooms, watching swans, ducks, geese and the always entertaining coots. A couple of years ago there was another strange occurrence involving a football and the marshes and maybe Nike, I can’t really remember now except it was all a big misunderstanding, apparently.

Cut to the present day and a third and hopefully final incident involving Nike and Hackney Marshes (football optional) has concluded. Yesterday Hackney Council won an out of court settlement of £300,000 against the sports giant for unauthorised use of its logo. While shopping in the Oxford Street Nike Town, one of Hackney’s legal retainers was confronted with a row of tee-shirts bearing the Hackney Council logo. Momentarily dazed, he wondered if he had fallen asleep and woken up in the council’s basement. Happily he remembered who and where he was and swung into action firing off a formal complaint to Nike central.

There was obviously the kind of creative melt-down at Ad-4-u that results in a back-to-basics brainstorm. Nike, it seemed had not forgotten its wonderful day having a kick about with the down home, salt of the earth, real people of Hackney and environs. Borrowing from the all too familiar language of public speak, Nike’s Head of Corporate Communications said,

'Nike created a range of products that was designed to celebrate the amateur football heritage and culture of Hackney Marshes. In doing so, we inadvertently used imagery that included the council's logo.’ Whatever happened to ignorance of the law is no defence? ‘Celebrating’ is a polite way of saying stealing in the same way that ‘borrowing’ used to be until banks introduced ‘unauthorised borrowing’. Perhaps ‘unauthorised celebrating’ should be enshrined in law.

Many are going to be disappointed by this as it would seem Hackney missed a trick in not going for the giant’s jugular but weird things can happen in courts of law and Hackney doesn’t have a great record at winning airtight cases. Besides, anyone with a heart could forgive Hackney mayor, Jules Pipe for not being able to pass on the opportunity to make the following statement,

‘We are very glad that Nike agreed to play ball without going to court’.

Accidental theft in the corporate world is very common and getting away with it is virtually mandatory. Monsanto seemed to forget that they hadn’t invented basmati rice. Coca Cola believes to this day that it initiated world peace. Richard Branson is always trying to sue young women who haven’t had sex. Hackney Council did well to enter this swamp and come out with £300,000 which it intends to spend on sporting activities for young people. Nike – consider yourself ticked off and don’t do it again.

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