When It Rains, It Pours

“So if you’re gonna do, then baby, just do it.” Just Do It Julia Michaels

Bill Belichick shows soft side with his dog
Nike

It’s been a good fortnight, brand-wise, for one of the world’s best-known brands. First, during the NFL’s strangely compelling virtual draft, with all the coaches and GM’s hunkered in basement bunkers, a canine cameo by Patriot’s coach Bill Belichick’s Alaskan Klee Kai became an Internet sensation. The pup’s name?

Nike.

As if the sports footwear and apparel giant needed help. A brand that generates all the goodwill money can buy got a free boost from a virtual viral video “aww” moment that only happened because a virus of a real and sinister sort kept Roger Goddell and the NFL from staging its annual draft extravaganza, which this year would have been held in Vegas. The NFL’s draft party last year in Nashville was none too sedate. One can only imagine what kinds of shenanigans would have “stayed in Vegas” if the NFL Draft had not been quarantined like the rest of us.

But when a dog becomes an overnight sensation, eclipsing even the Tom Brady to Tampa Bay melodrama and adding a dollop of humanity to the crusty Patriot’s coach, and that dog’s name happens to be Nike, that’s something even a powerful brand can howl about.

You’d think that the lighting bolt of trademark luck could not strike the same brand twice.

But the following, week, things got even better brand-wise, for Nike. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board declared Nike’s long-time slogan “Just Do It” not merely famous, but “exceedingly so” and therefore “entitled to the highest level of protection against confusion.” To get there, the Board looked at Nike’s hundreds of millions of dollars invested in advertising, massive sales over several decades, and a rich body of press reflecting the public’s perception of “Just Do It” as one of the greatest slogans in advertising history.

Why is this ruling important? It illustrates again the value of creating a famous brand. When it comes to trademarks, fame is a game changer. Famous marks are said to “cast a long shadow,” expanding their scope of protection and requiring others to stay far away.

In this case, Nike complained against an attempt to register “Just Drew It!” for athletic apparel. The “Just Drew It” folks gamely tried to elude Nike’s trademark rights by arguing that the two slogans connote different things– Nike’s “Just Do It” being a call to action, versus “Just Drew It” suggesting that something had been recently drawn, But “Drew” didn’t stand a chance in the face of “Just Do It’s” exceeding fame.

And in reality, Nike’s victory had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with selecting a powerful brand and then expertly marketing it into a permanent place in popular culture along with other enduring and indelible slogans such as Diamonds Are Forever. Come to think of it, “Just Do It” might be even more valuable than diamonds and may also last forever, or at least for more than a century, like the slogan in the title of this post, When It Rains, It Pours. Morton Salt coined that one back in 1914.

The case is Nike, Inc. v. Jamin Caldwell and Courtney Miles

Quote of the Day: “Brevity is very important. If you’re going to be longwinded, it should be for a purpose. Not just because you like your words.” Patricia Marx

2 Comments

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2 responses to “When It Rains, It Pours

  1. Carol

    Another real winner!

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