What if I told you that one of the all-time great Nike advertising campaigns sprung from another marketing idea that flopped?
In 1994, the ad agency working on the Nike account pitched a series of commercials that included the NBA’s biggest Swoosh-endorsing stars as string puppets.
But once the test commercial emerged, the spot — featuring Michael Jordan and Anfernee Hardaway marionettes playing one-on-one — was deemed “creepy” and the whole project was shelved. Literally: the Penny Hardaway puppet ended up in the office of Nike advertising director Joe McCarthy.
The puppet didn’t sit there for long though. In 1995, for the release of Hardaway’s first signature sneaker, the world was introduced to Lil’ Penny: the trash-talking alter ego to the soft-spoken Orlando Magic star.
Voiced by Chris Rock, Lil’ Penny was brash, confident and eventually dated Tyra Banks. The campaign drew celebrity cameos from Tiger Woods to Stevie Wonder, and it worked: the Nike Air Penny line was a smash hit.
Now you can slip into a pair of classic Nike Basketball retros with the Air Penny III ‘Eggplant,’ which lands later this month for the first time in 10 years.
Featuring Phylon overlays in an iridescent deep purple hue that contrast perfectly with the genuine white leather upper, the Nike Air Penny III rests on a Zoom Air unit in the forefoot and Max Air at the heel for stability and comfort. Hardaway’s iconic “1 Cent” logo is embossed towards the heels alongside a subtle Swoosh design.