Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Jan 21, 2016

Are these Nike shoes telling China to 'get fat'? (Update: Not really)

CHINA - A Chinese New Year iteration of Nike's Air Force 1 shoe, which bears ideographs meant to express new-year blessings, is instead being ridiculed as an embarrassing cultural blunder.

Are these Nike shoes telling China to 'get fat'? (Update: Not really)

The words 發 ('fa') and 福 ('fu') in traditional Chinese characters appear on the heel area of the left and right shoe in the special-edition pair, respectively.

When seen separately, the words are associated with festivity, meaning 'be rich/prosperous' and 'have fortune/luck'. But when viewed together, they form a phrase meaning 'get fat'—a reversed blessing which is ironic, to say the least, for a sports brand. 

NikeStore's official Weibo microblog has seen an influx of more than 2,550 comments since the introduction of the new shoes. Responses range from the mild ("Excuse me?! Get fat?!") to the more acerbic ("What kind of misunderstanding do you have about Chinese culture? Surely you have one Chinese person in your company! Otherwise, you can simply look for one on the streets!").

Nike seems to have made a more serious mistake than Burberry did last Chinese New Year when the British luxury clothier missed a crucial nuance of Chinese culture in a CNY-themed scarf.

Nike has apparently not issued a response on its social media channels, and still has a promotion for the shoes pinned at the top of its weibo account. 

Campaign Asia-Pacific has reached out to Nike China for an official response.

Update, 4:30 pm: Nike China provided the following response:

The two characters add two more Chinese character options to Air Force 1 that were already on the platform from the existing 27 signatures (Chinese Zodiac Signs, Figures and the Elements.)

Nike iD offers the consumer to do only the same character on the two heels. So, it will be a pair of FU shoes or FA shoes. It is not very likely that the two words will be viewed together as your article suggested unless you design two shoes (FU shoes and FA shoes) and you mix and match them. 

We also make sure the character Fu is upside down to well interpret Chinese tradition. 

 

Campaign Jobs

Follow us

Top news, insights and analysis every weekday

Sign up for Campaign Bulletins

Related Articles

Just Published

Premium
10 of the best creative bus and train handle ads in Asia
Premium
14 hours ago

10 of the best creative bus and train handle ads in ...

With a little imagination, handles inside public transport can become surprisingly successful places to advertise.

Premium
Ogilvy China shuffles leaders as part of 'Next Chapter' strategy
Premium
14 hours ago

Ogilvy China shuffles leaders as part of 'Next ...

China is one of the first major markets to implement Ogilvy's new structure of a single-agency brand.

Premium
To reach football fans, brands need to think local
Premium
14 hours ago

To reach football fans, brands need to think local

Three key takeaways from a discussion of the Football Inc. 2017 Fan Index, presented by FourFourTwo and YouGov.

Premium
Agency life or life passions? Why not both
Premium
15 hours ago

Agency life or life passions? Why not both

Theodora Lau, WE Communications exec and bona fide music artist, on how it’s possible to have a PR day job and a life outside it.