On Monday September 3rd, Nike announced the faces that will highlight its 30th anniversary campaign. One of them is the ex-NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, accompanied by the phrase “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”. There has been a huge backlash to this ad, such as the worldwide trend of the hashtag #NikeBoycott on Twitter where photos of people cutting and burning their Nike products and even investors selling their shares are shown everywhere. But experts have analyzed that the criticism can potentially be Nike’s marketing intention since the start of its promotion.
With the new technological generation, where social media is taking over every business market, it is important for a brand to stay in the midst of the talk and popularity. In the past couple of years, it has been confirmed that the faster (but also riskier) way of increasing sales in a business is to create controversy. Nike is undoubtedly one of the most powerful and competitive shoe apparels in the world (with a revenue of $34.5 billion last year) that has always been known by its slogan or catch phrase: “Just Do it.” Through the years they have sponsored a variety of athletes, TV celebrities, and famous people from different sectors of the media.
Colin Kaepernick has been sponsored by Nike since 2011. Nonetheless, the reason why his sponsorship has caused a variety of reactions is because on August 26th of 2016, the ex San Francisco 49ers quarterback kneeled down during the national anthem at a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick’s explanation for not standing during the national anthem was in protest against the police shootings directed towards African Americans and minorities in the United States. However, his action took a massive response from different sectors of the public, including the President of the United States, Donald Trump, who accused him of disrespecting the American Flag. Furthermore, Colin’s protest has also left him with no contract from an NFL Team.
Then why did Nike decided to highlight Kaepernick and his protest in its new campaign? The answer is that it is not the first time they have done this as marketing strategy. In 2017, an ad Nike publicized went viral for showing a sports woman wearing a hijab which spread the message that more Muslim woman should play sports. Their past controversies demonstrate that heated responses do not stop them from leading the shoe apparel market. Moreover, Nike’s brand is based on sports celebrities. This ad particularly, exhibits their loyalty to them. Serena Williams, LeBron James, and Odell Beckham Jr showed their support by posting this new campaign on their social media.
Other critics debate that Nike did not make the right marketing decision. The manager director of GlobalData Retail, Neil Saunders, analyzes the following: “While Nike has been doing relatively well in a sports market that is under pressure, it cannot afford to make a bad decision. Anything which has the potential to damage market share, such as overtly political campaigns, should be avoided.”. On Tuesday, 3.2 percent of Nike shares fell and the $3.3 billion loss in market capitalization proves this.
Nevertheless, by Thursday night (after the ad was released), Nike shares were trading up 73 cents to $81.13, meaning that it had regained more than half the share decline. This showcases what Nike has been doing for years: marketing an image of edgy youthfulness who should “Just Do It”. Colin Kaepernick’s advertisement is one more key element for Nike’s ongoing marketing strategy. After all, the different perspectives and debates made Nike the Number One trend on Twitter for more than seven hours on Labor Day.