Anti-Commercialism Anthem a Commercial for NBA All Star Game

Written By:  •  Thursday, February 7, 2013

Macklemore Wing$ video NBA shoes promotional - featured

Macklemore has burst onto the music scene with a popular album, a hot 100 and double platinum single with Thrift shop. His album is popular partially because of the messages within. Pro marriage equality, avoiding peer-pressure, and most evidently: Anti-commercialism. He has several songs that speak about being self-confident and not relying on brands for your identity and self-worth.

And now, one of his most feverent anthems against all of the sheep-like following of brands and the catching up of your self-worth with what you buy or wear… is being used by the NBA as a commercial for their All-Star Game.

The song is called Wing$. Yes, with the dollar sign. The messages in his original, unaltered song are very clear; people are buying things from companies, Nike in particular, that they don’t necessarily need, in the mistaken thought that these products will significantly improve their life, performance, and acceptance.

The song speaks of people being shot and killed for their popular Nike shoes. It says that he was mistaken to follow what Phil Knight said.  He speaks of the evils of tying your self worth to what you buy. He makes fun of himself for truly believing that a particular brand of shoes would make him play better or be popular.

The video is dark. It is somber. It shows sad people decked out in Nike gear. Garages stacked to the roof with boxes of Nike shoes.

Macklemore Wing$ video NBA shoes promotional - nike boxes

Does this consumer look happy?

The lead image on this article shows a piece from the video that pictures people lining up in front of the Nike Store, heads down while they play on their phones. Waiting to buy the latest overpriced goods being released from the company that held their identities in check.

Watch the full video and listen to the lyrics here:

Got the idea? Macklemore thinks people are foolish to link their self-worth to the products they buy. They wont make you jump higher, they don’t make you cool. The chorus, sung by children, even says; “I bought these dreams… that all fall down.”

OK, so now, apparently, the NBA money was enough that they’ve convinced him to appear in an NBA All-Star Game commercial. The song is an edit of his original that takes out all of the negatives, the lessons, and the balance to the message of the song. The video is of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, in the All-Star jerseys, dancing and rapping along. It is in a gym with stained glass windows, a sort of combination of a church and a court.

Macklemore Wing$ video NBA shoes promotional - logo

Not sure what event he is promoting here.

Taking out the negatives leaves the song sounding like it is the ultimate sneakerhead theme song. It talks about how getting new shoes made him cool. It says he (as a kid) can now touch the net. He says he sticks his tongue out, as the video shows a picture of Jordan. He says he’s an individual, but he’s part of a movement. NBA stars’ highlights roll in between shots of Macklemore.

Awkward silences now exist in the song where the lyrics addressing the foolishness of believing the brand’s promises are turned instrumental. “And then my friend Carlos’ brother got murdered for his fours, whoa” is accompanied in the music with a very somber slowing and a down beat. Which is intact in the NBA’s version, just absent the lyrics. But very obviously absent. Very strange.

Macklemore Wing$ video NBA shoes promotional - basket

Sing along! Everything here is happy!

Also included in the NBA verison is the kid’s chorus. Not pictured in the original version, they are here for the NBA; a Rainbow Coalition of different races, sexes, and nationalities, all wearing the All-Star Logo tshirt.

The most unfathomable part is that the chorus is sung in its entirety. Including the lesson of the original song;  “Stitch my wings, And pull the strings, I bought these dreams… That all fall down”

Watch the NBA’s version here:

I realize this is slightly off of our normal fare. But I believe it fits. Nothing in sport is as commercial as All Star games. Its all about the sales, of tickets, of specialty jerseys, or commercials. It doesn’t even matter for the season standings, its all marketing. This is both marketing and ANTI marketing…. being transformed into marketing.

I also know at this is far from being the first song appropriated by a company or a sports league for their own uses. It has happened hundreds of times. Often, they take a meaningful song, and strip the power, or steal it for their own message. (See Eminem’s 8 Mile and Chrysler.)

But never, in my recollection has it been a song so specifically against a brand, so directly anti-commercialism, so exactly the opposite of what the song ends up glorifying. And so poorly remixed.

One wonders, is this a piece of evil genius by Macklemore? Intentionally selling this particular song, complete with lengthy pauses, so people will look up his complete song and hear his true lesson against commercialism?

Or, is he simply selling out?

I prefer to think the former. I think this was intentional on his part. Maybe not his idea originally, but I think when they came to him, asking to use the song, the lightbulb went off and he changed the song in such a strange and awkward way that people couldn’t help but go find his original and get his lesson.

I wonder what the NBA was thinking. Perhaps they were thinking nothing, and a young intern brought up the song as a prank, a  joke, just to see if i would slide through. I can’t imagine a suit even knowing who Macklemore is.

Seems very confusing that they wouldn’t find out more before buying the song. Or, perhaps it is all part of the “all press is good press” syndrome.

Personally, I think it was an idiotic move. For the NBA and a genius one for Macklemore. I love Macklemore’s messages and I hope this gets them more listens.

Just not by any NBA executives.

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JR Francis

JR Francis is an actor, writer, director, graphic designer, UX guru, father, comedian, and craft beer snob. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JRFrancisSLN*One of several full-time uniform reporters this site has including its founder, Chris Creamer, who started his site in 1997

  • I had respect for Macklemore. Shouldn’t have been fooled.

  • Kris

    Wow, I am a big fan but this really smacks of selling out. Too bad, his songs have such inspiring messages.

  • Cuserell

    Everyone sells out. Why are you or anyone surprised? Thrift Shop is “hipster rap” and was the first step. It was rap for people that hate rap. He’s also not truly independent. The album was put out by an indy label through ADA which is owned by Warner Brothers.

    • AaronBrand

      ADA is a distrubutor, not a major label. There’s a big difference. He’s not “signed” to ADA, they just handle all his distrubtion needs. You don’t think he burned all 77,000 CD’s himself, do you?

  • Scooter

    I don’t know what to say about this. Macklemore had to be aware of how the song’s meaning was being changed. It’s not like he just allowed the song to be used, he allowed himself to be used. I don’t see how that makes him a genius. I think it makes him a fraud.

  • Marty

    Reminds me of when Coca-Cola revamped Wavin’ Flag (a protest song) for the 2010 World Cup.

  • Head scratcher

    • ConnieMarie526

      That’s my response too. I’ve just recently jumped on the M bandwagon and now I’m wondering.

  • SouthstanderRSM

    JR, having never heard of him or his song before I deliberately listened to the commerical first. That being said I did not get the feeling that something was missing. Had you not called attention to it I would have never known that the “real” song was any different. If I assumed this others will. So if the was a “genius” move on his part it did not work out like he hoped it was.

    Secondly for being anticommericalism the video uses the Nike logo, Michael Jordon as well as the Bulls logo. Correct me of I am wrong but do they not need permission to use these items commericaly? If this is the case how did he optian there permission. As closely as Nike guards their image, as well as Jordan and the NBA, it seems very odd to me that they allowed it. There is more to this then meets the eye.

    I also find it odd that he uses a commerical process to sell his anticommericalism. For him to make a living he needs to be at some level a commerical success. It is like Michael Moore using our capitalistic system to make money on a anticapitalism movie. Both cases ring of do as I say not as I do. Macklemore is selling a product that says do not buy items just because of logo or a brand message and the way it make you feel about yourself. Only to sell a product telling you how to feel about yourself with a brand message.

    Let’s be honest any money made on something saying do not buy things is hypocritical.

  • Trent Steffes

    Haha, this dude just totally sold out everything he is about. Losin respect

  • Joe G.

    Yes, this makes me feel that he is selling out, but I still have a great deal of respect for him. I think it could be an elaborate move to make an ad about one of the most commercial events in the US, therefore making the NBA look stupid for using a song about anti-commercialism in their ad because they like how it sounds. Either way, I respect Macklemore for being upfront with his opinions, it takes a lot of courage to stand by what he does in the world of music.

  • Elgy

    Are you becoming a sneakerhead JR? These sneaker articles are now more and more common on SportsLogos.

  • Elgy, I’d ask that you pay special attention to the author of the articles when you read them. *I* am not the sneakerhead.

  • Mr. F

    I think it’s more complicated than just selling out or promoting his album (of which he’s doing a little of both). The NBA probably pitched him from a pro-basketball standpoint rather than an anti-Nike one, and he went along with it. Frankly, he’s an artist and he can do whatever the heck he wants with his music. It’s not what I would do, but I still appreciate the original song.

    There may also be a secondary motivation here. Macklemore represents Seattle, and Seattle is dying to get the NBA back. The city proudly supported the NBA for 40 years and had it taken away so David Stern could give his best friend a franchise. Maybe this bit of good will can help Seattle get basketball back.

  • Mr. F

    Actually, on second thought, I listened to Wing$ again, and this is pretty awful. Especially considering the NBA is as conniving a business as Nike is.

  • sloth

    Since when are Nike and the NBA the same thing? Yes they’re both commercial entities, but you’d have a hard time arguing the NBA All-Star game has the cult consumerist following that Nike has. Heck, the NBA has a long-term partnership with Adidas for jerseys and official apparel. Macklemore is clearly not anti-sport, and I think he’d say he’s promoting the NBA and not a brand. The All-Star game is about promoting the league, its respective franchises, and the sport in general. Of course Nike makes a killing too but that’s inevitable, and maybe he just hopes enough people will hear the song in the commercial and go listen to the whole thing.

  • Bill A

    I disagree that it was a genius move on Macklemore’s part to get people to look up the original song because I’m an Occam’s Razor kind of thinker. See, a guy like Macklemore – who comes from such a society where brands are the root of a caste system – writes a song which basically admonishes such false pretense because its sort of “in his blood” and he knows what he’s talking about. While we give him credit for speaking out about it (all the while profiting from the song) that value system isn’t necessarily, or suddenly, exorcised just because he wrote the song.

    In this day and age of idol worshipping of plastic personalities and living ugly while dressed to the nines, I find it difficult to attribute Macklemore’s deal with the NBA to anything other than selling out.

  • ingmar66

    Money talks and priciples take a walk. This has clearly been a case of neutralizing a potential anti commercialism hype by a consortium of the NBA and Nike (which are not the same but both firmly believe in enticing young people into their peerpressured traps). It’s simple: we want people to believe that they are left out, feel like an outcast and should be treated as suffering from the black plague if they do not wear stuff from the NBA or Nike, some dude comes up claiming it is the other way around, he is becoming popular, that is not what we want, let’s buy the guy. And the guy, being a typical 21st century, opportunistic, switching opininons by the second kind of guy says yes. He is laughing all the way to the bank and his future kids will hate him for it when they become teenagers. What if he would have said no? Vicious rumours would have surfaced, his reputation would have been tarnished by some vile twitter campaigns. You are not supposed to say no to the money from big shots. Say no and they will break you in half. That is how this century works. Will this development make me give up watching the NBA or stop wearing Nikes? No, but I am getting fed up with this commercial warfare against consumers, right here at home. And I will not listen to Macky Messer anymore.

  • Ben

    Reason #736 why I don’t watch the NBA.

  • Michael

    Most recording artists who are signed with big labels have basically signed all their rights and song control away. The label can do anything with those songs, and don’t need his permission. That’s probably what happened here.

    In fact, I wonder if his contract included video control as well, and that’s why he appeared in the video.

    He may well be very upset that his sing is used in that way, but he’s bound to a legal contract.

  • Michael

    And even if he did willingly grant his permission, I’ll add this: before bashing people for “selling out”, we should each ask ourselves “Would I be able to turn down such a lucrative offer?”

  • Aaron Thew

    good job chad. gooooooood job. you get an “A+” for facebook grammar. here’s a star for you.

  • Jimmy John

    I wear Jordans to a private school and I can dunk better than all dem kids

  • Jimmy John

    Wow! It’s gettin’ churchy in dat gym!