Are these Nike shoes telling China to “get bigger”? (Update: Not really) | Marketing
The words 發 (‘fa’) and 福 (‘fu’) in traditional Chinese characters appear on the heel area of the left and right shoe respectively in the special edition pair.
When seen separately, the words are associated with the feast, meaning “to be rich/prosperous” and “to have fortune/luck”. But when seen together, they form a phrase meaning “to get bigger” – an inverted blessing that is ironic for a sports brand to say the least.
NikeStore Official Weibo Microblog has seen an influx of over 2,550 comments since the new shoes were introduced. Responses range from mild (“Excuse me?! Getting fat?!”) to scathing (“What kind of misunderstanding do you have about Chinese culture? Surely you have a Chinese in your business! Otherwise, you can just look for one in the street!”).
Nike appears to have made a bigger mistake than Burberry last Chinese New Year when the British luxury clothier missed a crucial nuance of Chinese culture in a CNY-themed scarf.
Nike apparently hasn’t posted a response on its social media and is still running a promotion for the shoes pinned to the top of its weibo account.
Asia-Pacific Campaign has contacted Nike China for an official response.
Update, 4:30 p.m.: Nike China provided the following response:
Both characters add two more Chinese character options to Air Force 1 that were already on the platform from the existing 27 signatures (the Chinese zodiac signs, numbers, and elements.)
Nike iD offers the consumer to only make the same character on both heels. So it will be a pair of FU shoes or FA shoes. The two words are unlikely to be considered together as your article suggests unless you are designing two shoes (FU shoes and FA shoes) and mixing and matching them.
We also make sure that the character Fu is upside down to interpret the Chinese tradition well.