Hi-Tec Shoes briefly achieved notoriety last week when the outdoor-shoe company was pegged as the creator of a popular new online video that showed European athletes running on water. The company, however, is denying it has anything to do with the video.
“We had zero to do with that,” said Dayna Panales, Hi-Tec’s U.S. PR manager, in a phone interview on Friday. “Nothing.” Asked if her denial was part of the campaign, she said, “This is not a campaign on our part at all.”
Whether Panales is simply sticking to a script is unclear. She did say that Hi-Tec maintains separate marketing departments in each country, and that it was possible she was just not in the loop on something her colleagues overseas were doing.
Nonetheless, she did have a story prepared to explain how her company’s shoes ended up in the video.
“Our Polish office gave these guys shoes and clothes as a quote-unquote sponsorship for their sport, and that’s the only involvement we had,” she said.
The idea that Hi-Tec produced the video first came from a SocialTimes article on May 11. Other blogs, including Gawker.com, then picked up the story.
While it’s certainly not a leap to conclude that Hi-Tec created the video – Hi-Tec shoes, hats and other apparel are featured prominently throughout the professionally produced clip – the SocialTimes article did not offer any evidence beyond that, nor did it quote anyone from the company.
Megan O’Neill, the author of the SocialTimes article, said in an e-mail message, “My article was based on the fact that the shoes are in the video, as well as in many of the pictures on the Liquid Mountaineering blog, several of which feature the shoes.” O’Neill continued, “Personally, I don’t see how Hi-Tec couldn’t have been involved with it and if they continue to deny it I think it only serves to create more buzz around the topic.” She confirmed, however, that she had not spoken to the company, and didn’t “have any inside information or proof that the company had anything to do with making the video.”
The video, Liquid Mountaineering, is a three-minute documentary-style clip about athletes who are using special water-resistant shoes to run on water. The video had amassed close to 3 million views in YouTube as of Monday morning, and sparked debate in the comments over whether it was real.
If Hi-Tec is behind the videos but simply denying it to extend the campaign, it is making a mistake both ethically and strategically, said Michael Monello, partner and ECD of ad agency Campfire, which has won praise for helping companies like Audi and HBO wage elaborate anonymous marketing campaigns.
“I would never advise a client to lie to a reporter,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “Aside from the ethical issues, which are obvious, I think the marketing suffers when the conversation changes from ‘check out this incredible story/video’ to ‘is this real or fake?’ Once you start playing that game, the audience’s search for and discovery of the truth becomes the central message and overshadows the real purpose of the video.”
“On the flip side,” he added, “If they really had nothing to do with it (of course they did), then they are squandering a golden opportunity!”