New Nike ad inadvertently channels past sweatshop controversies

Nike baby advert

Nike has spent the last two decades distancing itself from child labor, but a new ad may have accidentally undone some of that work.

The two-minute video, which appeared on YouTube last night, shows a drab-looking crib filled with baby athletes like Mo Farah and Serena Williams. The babies listen to “Ant-Man” actor Bobby Cannavale as he strides through their cots delivering a locker room-style speech about success. Essentially, it’s a baby bootcamp and meant as typical inspirational fare with the Olympics around the corner. After his speech concludes, with the punchline that stars are made not born, the camera shows a baby’s fist held in the air.

While it has already clocked up over 2.5 million views on YouTube, the Wieden + Kennedy ad has attracted a backlash on social media as users draw parallels with sweatshops.

Nike has been hellbent on changing public opinion about its labor practices since it was embroiled in a lengthy child labour scandal in the 1990s. In 2005 the sports brand made the decision to publish details of all its suppliers and the demographics of their workforce. Nike says all its workers are over the age of 16 and paid at least the minimum wage in their country.

A statement on its website reads: Nike specifically and directly forbids the use of child labor or sweatshop conditions in factories contracted to make Nike products.”

Another brand that has been dragged into the sweatshop debate is Ivy Park, Beyonce’s athleisure range for Topshop, which was accused of paying workers under $1 an hour at a factory in Sri Lanka. The company denies this.

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