Nike to continue airing ad in HK, despite controversy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 December, 2004, 12:00am

Shoe giant says campaign featuring NBA star fighting Chinese icons has been well received

Nike says it will continue to broadcast a controversial television advertisement in Hong Kong despite being forced to take it off the air on the mainland.

The ad features American basketball star LeBron James fighting and defeating a white-haired kung-fu master, two Chinese women and a pair of dragons.

The sports-shoe giant issued a 'deep apology to Chinese consumers' over the advertisement last week after the mainland's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television said it had stirred up 'strong public indignation'.

But Nike said it would not withdraw the advertisement from Hong Kong, where it had provoked a more positive response.

'In Hong Kong, we have not received any complaints or any negative feedback,' said a spokeswoman for Nike's operations in Hong Kong.

'In fact, the campaign was well received by young people.'

The Hong Kong Television Licensing Authority said it had received just one complaint from a caller who said the ad was 'racist against Asian people'.

Hong Kong Cable TV will continue running the ad during broadcasts of English Premier League football, while ATV Home and ATV World will carry on airing it during broadcasts of the National Basketball Association.

In its apology to the mainland, Nike said that the advertising campaign - titled 'LeBron James in the Chamber of Fear' - was inspired by Hong Kong kung-fu movies of the 1970s.

'Nike hoped it could encourage Asian youth to face their fears in basketball,' it said.

'We had no intention of hurting the emotions of Chinese consumers. We place much attention on the Chinese market and there was a lot of careful consideration before launching the advertisement.'

Viewers on the mainland aired their displeasure online at the way James was shown beating the Chinese characters in the 90-second commercial.

One chat-room contributor said: 'This ad shows Chinese characters losing again and again. It makes our country look helpless against America.'

Nike yesterday withdrew all references to James - who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers - from its China-based websites. No changes were made to its websites hosted in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Korea, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

The television ad would also continue to be run in countries across the Asia-Pacific region.

After banning the advertisement, mainland regulators announced that controls on foreign television commercials would be tightened to 'protect Chinese culture'.