While Nike has been bending over backwards these day to portray itself as responsible corporate citizen, the world's largest sporting apparel company is still very much the bully when it comes to flogging its brand.
Bands looking to gig at Presto, the new Nike-owned hot spot in Kensington Market, are required to sign contracts stipulating that they won't wear competitors' logos onstage. A copy of the contract obtained by NOW, penned by Youthograph, a sassy marketing firm hired by Nike, reads a little like sneaky market research.
Alongside customary contractual details are slots for band shoe sizes and some fishing for favourite colours and states of mind ("Do you feel daring/happy/careless?").
Mostly, though, it's corporate dominance that comes radiating through the lines of the contract when "wardrobe guidelines" are detailed. All caps, headbands, watches and, of course, shoes with competitors' logos are strictly barred.
"We're not meaning to be jerks about this," reads the contract, "so if you have any sort of problem with Nike or a real desire to wear a big logo from another competitor... this gig might not be for you." Sure.
Michelle Noble of Nike Canada insists that an Adidas cap won't nullify a contract, and bouncers aren't waiting in the wings to strip anyone wearing Reebok from the stage.
But "people should understand what they are coming to do (and) that they are appearing as part of a promotion for Nike." And here we thought the music was the thing.
Some bands have already refused the chance to bed with Nike. Bands that have outright rejected the Presto prize pack -- free shoes come with the gig -- include One-Speed-Bike, which launched the anti-G7 OCAP benefit CD Fight To Win, and Holding Pattern, which also played an OCAP benefit concert. Other bands were coaxed to sign on when told Presto was more about doing good deeds. All door proceeds from gigs at the club go to St. Stephen's Community House soup kitchen.
One of Toronto's biggest indie bands, the Salads, is booked to play the club next month. Bassist Chuck Dailey says they took a hefty pay cut to play the gig in the name of charity. Like several other bands booked to play Presto, the Salads quickly allayed their discomfort when Presto's talent booker suggested that band members donate their Prestos to their charity of choice.
Nike Canada admits that some acts have not clearly understood that this is, ultimately, a marketing campaign, but Noble argues that Nike has not hidden its motives or involvement.
Having learned about the Presto contract details only this week, the Salads' Dailey says the band may back out after all. "It's rock and roll, and everything we do is sponsored either by cigarettes or beer, so we may as well be sponsored by a shoe company -- we've already sold our souls. But if we have to sign a contract that forces us to wear certain clothes, then we won't do the gig."