Why Nike's "Dream Crazy" Campaign Is a Success

The world was shocked to find out Colin Kaepernick, ex-quarterback of the NFL San Francisco 49ers, was the leading face of Nike’s “dream crazy” campaign. The “just do it” brand released a controversial image of the football star, who in 2016 decided to kneel on the field instead of standing during the national anthem, with the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” in bold, white letters across Kaepernick’s face.

The thirty-year-old football player has made it clear that his kneeling was a reflection of his protest against the wrongdoings towards blacks. He told NFL media: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Much like Kaepernick’s initial act of defiance on the football field, Nike’s campaign seemed to evoke much of the same outrage and praise from the world.

There were those who were ecstatic about the whole campaign. Many thought of Kaepernick to be the epitome of the campaign’s concept of “dream crazy," so much so that according to Breal.TV, the brand had “over $43 million worth of media exposure gained within the first 24 hours.”

On the other side, there has been video footage of people burning Nike equipment and others who have openly shared that they will no longer be purchasing anything from the company. USA Today informs the public that the Nike campaign upset even the Mississippi police agency to the point where they too will “no longer purchase Nike products."

Was this a bad move on Nike’s part? Did the long-standing athletic brand make a mistake in utilizing a public figure that stirred up so much controversy and mixed emotions within the public?

There are many different definitions on what “success” in terms of a campaign actually means. For many, success is based on numbers—how much money did the ads bring in as a whole?

In my opinion as a creative, a successful campaign creates a reaction. Although a portion of that reaction turned out to be negative, the fire that Nike ignited based around Kaepernick’s face proved that the company has power. That power is being able to stir a response derived from passion. Seeing those ads has the ability to make anyone feel something—there isn't a single person who felt nothing or apathetic toward the campaign. And that’s what good advertising does—it generates a response evolved from feeling. Nike knew exactly what the “dream crazy” campaign would do. They didn’t lose customers, but instead built a stronger connection between those who are true believers in the “just do it” lifestyle.

That’s why I believe a strong campaign absolutely does not equate to numbers. A strong campaign reflects a strong brand, and that is what Nike aimed to do. Nike took a risk. The company believed in a movement that Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling symbolized: believing in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.

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