Presto Chango: Nike not welcome in Toronto’s Kensington Market

Maquila Solidarity Network Nike Campaign News Release, July 19, 2002

Presto Chango: Nike not welcome in Toronto’s Kensington Market

Photo credit: Adbusters Spoof Ad Campaign

When Nike moved into Toronto’s Kensington Market, a vibrant neighbourhood
of alternative youth culture, they should have known they would have a fight on their hands. Shortly after the Nike “Presto showroom” opened, local graffiti artists let Nike know it wasn’t welcome by tagging buildings and mailboxes with messages like, “Nike = sweatshops = get lost.” Earlier this week, a pair of sneakers, dripping with red paint, appeared overnight hanging from the Presto sign.

The battle culminated last night when local youth, together with the Maquila Solidarity Network and UNITE, organized an anti-Nike street party and counter-concert to protest the company’s sweatshop labour practices and infiltration of the Kensington Market. Staged on a balcony three doors down from Presto, the concert opened with the local break-dancing crew SheBang! B-Girls. Before a crowd of over 300 people, electronic artists mixed beats between speeches by MSN, UNITE, local author Jim Munroe and the Toronto Public Space Committee. The street was shut down for two hours as youth danced, partied and chanted “Nike go home!”

It was an unfortunate choice when someone at Nike decided to market their new “Presto” sneakers to an alternative, “indie youth” crowd. To reach the target market, Nike opened a music venue called Presto in the Kensington Market in June. They hired a youth marketing firm to book local alternative bands who were encouraged to wear Nike’s new Presto sneakers during their shows. “Wardrobe Guidelines” in the bands’ contracts explicitly forbade the wearing of any logos of Nike’s competitors. Bar staff were issued Nike shoes and apparel, and a display of Presto gear went
up on the wall. It was a marketer’s dream come true.

Surprisingly the familiar Nike swoosh was nowhere to be seen on the club. Many residents had no idea it was a Nike marketing project until they walked through the door and saw the sneaker display on the wall and all the staff wearing Nikes. But it didn’t take long for opposition to grow against this attempt to infiltrate the local indie arts community. OPPRESTO the counter-concert Members of Future Rhetoric, a collective of local electronic artists and DJs, had been invited to play at Presto. When they learned they were being used to market Presto sneakers, they immediately pulled out and decided to organize a counter-concert and street party called Oppresto, with the help of MSN.

Market residents also approached their local city councillor to complain about Presto’s high noise levels in a residential neighbourhood. By-law inspectors were sent to Presto one night and found the club was running without a permit, with noise levels exceeding allowable limits. On July 18, the night of the counter-concert, Nike decided to pull the plug on music at their venue and simply use the space as a Presto display room until August 17. At that point the marketing project ends and Nike will pull out of the Market. They are not expected back any time soon.

Maquila Solidarity Network / Ethical Trading Action Group

606 Shaw St, Toronto ON M6G 3L6 Canada
Tel. 416-532-8584 / Fax.416-532-7688