June 28, 2012

To Tweet Or Not To #Tweet: Sports Good Manufacturer Rapped Over Marketing Plugs By Football Stars

Seller Beware: Consumer Protection Insights for Industry

Nike UK Limited has become the first UK company to have its Twitter marketing campaign banned by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Two tweets from England football players, Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere, were challenged on the basis that there were not "obviously identifiable" as marketing communications. The tweets in question, both from the players' official Twitter accounts, included the following from Wayne Rooney "My resolution - to start the year as a champion, and finish it as a champion...#makeitcount".

Nike argued that the presence of the Nike URL in the body of the tweet, combined with their marketing campaign strap line "#makeitcount", made sufficiently clear that the tweets were advertising materials and not sent in the footballers' personal capacity. The ASA disagreed. It noted that the content of both tweets were agreed with the Nike marketing team and that the footballers were required to take part in such marketing activities as part of their sponsorship deals. It considered that the reference to Nike in the tweet could have been easily missed by Twitter users, which receive large numbers of tweets during the day and may scroll through them quickly. Further, the Nike "Make It Count" campaign was relatively unknown at the time the tweets were sent. Overall, the ASA considered that there was nothing obvious in the tweets to suggest that they were marketing communications and therefore they breached the ASA's code, the CAP Code.

Celebrity endorsements on social media platforms can be an effective marketing tool for brands, particularly where celebrities have large numbers of followers running into the millions. However the ASA has made clear that marketing tweets must be clearly identified as such, for example by including the hashtag "#ad" or, in the case of sponsorship deals, using the hashtag "#spon".

© Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP 2012 All Rights Reserved. This blog post is intended to be a general summary of the law and does not constitute legal advice. You should consult with counsel to determine applicable legal requirements in a specific fact situation.

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