Nike has stirred a hornet’s nest with its newest “Just Do It” ad campaign.
It features a close-up of the former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick with the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The reference to sacrifice most likely links Kaepernick’s going unsigned in the NFL to his kneeling during the national anthem, which he did in 2016 to protest racial injustice.
In announcing the deal, Nike said he was “one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation”.
Critics have burned Nike trainers and clothing in protest at Colin Kaepernick’s appointment as the face of the brand’s new advertising campaign
Trump reacted saying: “Nike is a tenant of mine. They pay a lot of rent,” the president told The Daily Caller in an Oval Office sit-down. “As much as I disagree with the Colin Kaepernick endorsement, in another way… it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do, but I personally am on a different side of it.” Trump has previously called Kaepernick a “sonofabitch” for his kneeling.
Nike’s new ad is clearly a risk. It predictably blew up on social media, with some praising the ad and others lambasting both it and the company. It has spurred calls for a boycott of Nike products. Some social-media users posted videos of people lighting their shoes on fire.
By at least one measure, the ad has been enormously successful. Nike and its ad were top trending terms on Twitter on Monday when the ad was released. Nike has already seen more than $43 million worth of media exposure, nearly $19 million of which was positive, according to Apex Marketing Group data reported by Bloomberg.
Put simply, however, it’s a game of numbers when it comes to big brands’ decision-making. As Matt Powell, a sports-industry analyst for NPD Group, put it simply in a tweet: “Old angry white guys are not a core demographic for Nike.”
In fact, around 67% of Nike’s customer base is younger than 35, according to NPD Group via Bloomberg, and as a group it’s more ethnically diverse than average.
Younger customers are more likely to expect the brands they buy from to take a stand as Nike just did, with 60% of millennials identified as “belief-driven buyers” globally, according to a 2017 study by Edelman. In fact, half of all customers in the survey said they bought based on belief.
Though Kaepernick is unsigned, Nike retained him from a deal dating back to 2011, according to The New York Times. Nike and Kaepernick extended the deal with the new campaign.