John Smith’s ad sparks Nike row

Scottish Courage faces threat of court action for ad campaign that alludes to Nike branding

Nike is threatening Scottish Courage with legal action for “tarnishing” the Nike brand by associating it with “an overweight and apparently unskilled footballer” – Peter Kaye, star of Phoenix Nights and also of the latest John Smith’s TV advertising campaign.

Nike’s lawyers have also warned The Sun and The Daily Telegraph not to repeat certain ads for John Smiths’ current sales promotion, which is running in 5,000 UK pubs and bars.

The dispute is over the use of the slogan “Just ‘ave it” and a version of the John Smith’s horseshoe magnet icon which resembles the Nike “swoosh” in marketing material for the promotion. The promotion also uses images from a TV ad in which amateur footballers show off their skills – all except Kaye, who hoofs the ball into someone’s garden and drinks a pint of John Smith’s.

A Nike spokesman says: “We took exception to the obvious reference to our logo and our slogan. Our lawyers have written to Scottish Courage and to the media they used.” In addition to the alleged copyright infringement on “Just do it” and the “swoosh”, Nike’s lawyers claim that the connection to alcohol and to the unskilled footballer could damage the Nike brand.

Scottish Courage brands director John Botia says the brewer has taken legal advice and Nike’s claims of infringement are “nonsense”. He adds: “It’s ironic that the experts in ‘ambush marketing’ should react like this to what is just a bit of fun. I think they’ve scored a bit of an own-goal here – overweight and unskilled is their core buyer.”

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