In 2002, Sega was promoting their newest release, NBA 2K2, when their marketing campaign came to a screeching halt by a copyright infringement claim by Nike.
Nike claimed that Sega’s ad for NBA 2K2 “virtually re-enacts” a Nike TV spot called “Frozen Moment.” The Nike ad, featuring an NBA Bulls-Lakers game with Michael Jordan, was created in 1996, meaning that the likelihood of it being a coincidence was slim.
The complaint included a scene-by-scene comparison of the ads, specifically drawing attention to the runners on a treadmill in the Nike ad and a hamster on a treadmill for Sega, and water spilling over the edge of a sink in the Nike ad and a drink spilling over the edge of a table in the Sega ad. In both videos, the scene shifts from a fast-paced basketball game sequence to the slow-motion actions of onlookers.
Here’s the Nike “Frozen Moment” ad from 1996:
Here’s the NBA 2K2 ad by Sega:
It’s not like Sega took the same general concept and made it their own, either; their commercial was practically a shot-for-shot remake of Frozen Moment, with a few minor tweaks.
If you can’t come up with a good idea of your own, just steal someone else’s, right? No. Without a strong legal argument to rely on, Sega settled instead of engaging in a lengthy court battle with Nike. As part of the agreement, Sega donated over $100,000 to the Boys & Girls Club, ditched the ad, and apologised.
It’s an interesting story, summarised comprehensively by Youtuber the Gaming Historian. Learn all about this little-known case between Nike and Sega by checking out his video, below:
And while you’re at it, check out more of the Gaming Historian’s videos. They’re awesome.