The 1999 Super Bowl Ad That Tanked Athletic Shoe Retailer Just For Feet

During the 1999 Super Bowl, athletic-shoe retailer Just For Feet ran a commercial that showed a barefoot Kenyan runner fleeing from hunters in a Humvee, who capture and drug him. When he awakes, he finds a pair of running shoes on his feet. The ad was supposed to be part of a brand-building campaign for the retailer that would help move the company away from its “where the 13th pair is free” positioning theme. However, rather than change the image of the company, the ad created a controversy that resulted in a lawsuit that could have drastically changed the relationships between advertisers and their agencies.

Following the Super Bowl, critics lashed out at the commercial for its racial insensitivity. As a result of the fallout and criticism surrounding the ad, Just For Feet filed a lawsuit against its agency, Saatchi & Saatchi Business Communications, asking for more than $10 million in damages for advertising malpractice. In its lawsuit, Just For Feet claimed that the finished spot, called “Kenya,” was entirely different from the concept the agency first presented. Moreover, the retailer’s CEO claimed in news reports that he was forced into running the spot even though he personally disliked it… read more >

Just For Feet 1977 Vintage Men’s T-Shirt

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