Nike has bought the naming rights to a public park in central Tokyo with the purpose of building a skateboarding area and a café. Miyashita Park will be renamed “Nike Park” and in total, Nike plan to spend around 600m yen (5.6 million dollars) renovating the park. But the investment also comes with some downsides, at least if you’re not a skateboard fan. Nike plans to charge a fee in order to use the skating area or even entering the park, which of course is a controversial change for a place that used to be open free to the public. A number of homeless people will also be forced to leave the park.
The story is quite interesting since Nike obviously is investing heavily in restoring a run down area with the purpose of achieving positive associations to the brand. But the resistance is quite strong and vocal, which we can see by studing how the story is debated online. Human rights activists have founded The Coalition to Protect Miyashita Park from Becoming Nike Park which of course has a blog, and anti-Nike posters are spreading across the blogosphere (see examples here). Trendspotting also claims that “human rights” activist are much more active in Japanese blogs than “Nike lovers”.
The story is also featured on the front page as one of the most linked to news on Japan’s number one social bookmarking site Japan Soc, which would possibly indicate that Nike has got some work to do to change public opinion in favour of their initiative.