A word to the wise: Associating your product with St. Patrick’s Day drinking does not make a good marketing strategy, especially if you don’t do your research. That’s a lesson Nike is learning the hard way following its apology to Irish people after the company named its newest sneaker the “Black and Tan.”
Nike thought the unofficial name for the shoe (see a picture here) referred to the drink, which mixes a pale ale beer and a dark beer — but it also is a name for a violent paramilitary group that suppressed the Irish during their war of independence in the early 1920s. In the Belfast Telegraph, Ciaran Staunton, president of the U.S.-based Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, asked, “Is there no one at Nike able to google Black and Tan?”
Nike has since apologized:
“This month Nike is scheduled to release a quick strike version of the Nike SB Dunk Low that has been unofficially named by some using a phrase that can be viewed as inappropriate and insensitive. We apologize. No offense was intended” said Nike spokesman Brian Strong.
The dual meaning of “Black and Tan” has gotten other companies in trouble, too — Ben & Jerry’s had to apologize in 2006 for their Black & Tan ice cream, which tasted like cream stout and chocolate. And though Urban Outfitters avoided references to the Black and Tan, they retailer has been criticized by Irish groups this year for its line of T-shirts, which they say promotes offensive stereotypes of the Irish by focusing on binge drinking.
Consumerist reports that Irish people would never order a Black and Tan, anyway, according to Brian Boyd of the Irish Times — “not only because of the terrible associations with the group, but because real Irish don’t dilute their Guinness.”
*This story previously misidentified the war that the Black and Tans fought. It was the Irish War of Independence.