Nike made a bold mover coming out of Labor Day, naming Colin Kaepernick, an American football player and political activist, as the face of its new ad campaign, celebrating 30 years of the iconic ‘Just Do It’ slogan.
A simple black and white photo of one of the quietly most influential men in America, alongside the slogan: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” has set social media ablaze – in some cases, literally.
It’s a controversial move that has seen thousands of Americans destroying their Nike products in protest and will cost them sales. But I’d argue is a brilliant move in the long term for the brand.
Why are people angry?
The decision is controversial for a number of reasons. Chiefly, that Colin Kaepernick started the ‘US Anthem Protest’movement protesting against police brutality and racial inequality in America. However, his form of protest – refusing the stand for the National Anthem – has polarised Americans. It has also attracted the attention of Donald Trump, who has publically denouncedKaepernick as an example of the anti-patriotic character that his office stands against.
This pressure from Trump and the public has resulted in Kaepernick losing both endorsements and his job – the public attention on him means no NFL club wants to employ him because of the distraction he would bring. Nonetheless, Kaepernick has continued his protest, talking publically about racial inequality in America and garnering critical acclaim from the likes of GQ and Time Magazine.
Why it’s brilliant
I love it for a few reasons:
- At a time when 92% of the public (PN/CBI research) want organisations to voice an opinion on social issues – this is as big a public and purpose driven stance as you will see.
- The timing is glorious: coming out of a sleepy Labor Day weekend, and the Monday before the NFL season begins – it will be interesting to see where Nike’s share price opens in a few hours
- Nike has often been criticised for supporting the Trump regime, and it’s close ties to government. This move is sure to dismiss all of those, and I’d fully expect a response from Donald Trump today.
- According to Cone research, 85% of Americans say they would likely support a purpose-driven company in their community, while more than two-thirds (68%) say they would want to work for that company.
- A cynical view, but recent research has shown that public disapproval of Trump has reached an all-time high, meanwhile support for the NFL anthem protests is on the rise
Being bold and taking a stand on a social issue as incendiary as this is risky. We’ve seen it go wrong before (PepsiCo, Lush) but the difference here is that Nike has a licence to operate in this space. Nike has been a commercial sponsor of Kaepernick for years. And as a major sporting sponsor, it has a right to take an opinion on the issue.
While the move might see a few burnt shoes and sliced up swooshes, the long term advocacy gained from taking a decisive and purpose driven stance – not to mention the short term gain of having your new ad campaign plastered all over the media! – will ensure this gamble pays off.