BEAVERTON, OR—Citing creative confinement and a desire to focus exclusively on what it does best, the Nike Corporation announced Monday it will cease manufacturing athletic shoes and other sports-related merchandise in order to devote itself fully to the creation of state-of-the-art television advertisements.
"The last few years, it became impossible to maintain our high standards of advertising while faced with the daily distractions of making sneakers," said Phil Knight, Nike founder and CEO. "By discontinuing our entire product line, we will ensure that Nike remains the world's leader in the field of incredibly cool TV commercials well into the 21st century."
Nike's first project following the announcement will be a 40-minute, $200 million spot scheduled to air during halftime of Super Bowl XXXI in January 1997.
The spot, which is already being touted as "the most killer commercial of all time" by industry insiders, will feature appearances by Warner Bros. cartoon favorite Wile E. Coyote, supermodel Naomi Campbell and box-office superstar Bruce Willis, as well as "kitschy" cameos by TV's Adam "Batman" West and Barbara "I Dream of Jeannie" Eden.
The digital special effects and hyper-realistic alien space battle sequences in the new Nike ad are said to represent major breakthroughs in effects magic, and required the construction of a brand-new Nike supercomputer, as well as over 35 kilotons of pyrotechnic explosives.
In the ad's climactic finale sequence, the nation of Iceland will actually be destroyed and replaced with a 50-mile-long scale model of the Air Gravitas, an imaginary new Nike hiking shoe.
"In the past, with so much of our budget going toward things like research and development, and employee salaries, a project like this would not have been feasible," Knight said. "Now, from a financial standpoint, our ability to inspire the world's athletes through a barrage of stirring visual images and high-volume, exclusively licensed, let's-get-really-freaking-pumped rock music is almost limitless."
Nike officials are sure the new ad will top any previous advertising achievements the Nike corporation can boast. "Rest assured, if the Air Gravitas were real, everybody in the world would want a pair after seeing this commercial," Knight said. "If we were actually selling the Air Gravitas, it would go down as the most successfully marketed shoe in history."
According to Nike spokespeople, the company will fire most of its 6,800 employees, keeping only those in its advertising division. Nike plans to offer the fired employees' combined salary of $210 million to basketball superstar Shaquille O'Neal, the only major superstar not currently under contract with Nike.
In the event O'Neal balks at the Nike offer, the company will terminate long-distance runner Joan Benoit-Samuelson's $10,000 annual contract and add it to his offer.
"Basically, we feel that there are a lot more important things in this life than selling shoes," Knight said. "When a Nike commercial ends, and the 'Just Do It' logo fills the screen, it means a lot more than 'Just Buy The Shoes.' It means 'Live Your Dreams.' It means 'Make It Happen, Children Of the Earth—Find The Courage To Go Out And Make The Most Out Of Life.' I don't want that beautiful message of hope and inspiration tarnished by crass commercialism."