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July 3, 2012

‘Just do it’ ruling over Nike tweets is good news for media

By Cleland Thom

Media who sell tweets to advertisers as part of advertising deals will be encouraged by a recent ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Celebrities have cashed in big-time on sponsored Tweets. Catherine Zeta-Jones’ endorsement deal with T-Mobile was reportedly worth millions. The mobile phone company’s national sales jumped 25 per cent during the campaign.

Powerful stuff. And where there’s cash, there’s lawyers and regulators taking a close look .

Last year, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said that people should make it clear if they were being paid to tweet about something.

It later warned: “Online advertising and marketing practices that do not disclose they include paid-for promotions are deceptive under trading laws.”

The ASA recently investigated two tweets for Nike posted in January 2012 by Nike sponsored footballers, Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere on the official Twitter feeds.

It wanted to determine whether the tweets were identifiable as marketing communications.

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Rooney’s tweet said: ‘My resolution – to start the year as a champion, and finish it as a champion…#makeitcount gonike.me/makeitcount'(he didn’t).

And Wilshere followed suit with: “In 2012, I will come back for my club – and be ready for my country.” #makeitcount.gonike.me /Makeitcount'(he hasn’t – yet).

But in a somewhat generous decision, the ASA said: ‘There was nothing obvious in the tweets to indicate that they were Nike marketing communications”.

Its adjudication also said that the word ‘Nike’ was not sufficiently prominent and that consumers would not have been aware their ‘make it count’campaign.

Media who offer cash-for-tweets deals will be encouraged by the decision. But the OFT’s guidance still applies – they expect sponsored tweets to be clearly recognisable.

The ASA has suggested using a tag ‘#ad’may be enough to keep them within the law.

Cleland Thom is a consultant and trainer in media law

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