Nike’s Support of Kaepernick: A Positive Step

Anna Stewart, News Managing Editor

Nike took a stand Sept. 7 during the NFL season opener endorsing Colin Kaepernick as the face of its newest “Just Do It” ad campaign and showing off the brand’s marketing expertise.  If other companies want to succeed, they should consider doing the same, following Nike’s lead and showing support for socio-political issues that their consumers are passionate about.

In the past, companies have avoided taking a stance on controversial issues because they risk losing profits from consumers who disagree with them. But, a recent poll of 1,000 American consumers found that “two-thirds of consumers (66 percent) say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues,” according to social media management company Sprout Social. And Nike’s success proves that depending on the issue, and the age demographic of their target customer, vocalizing support or opposition can actually benefit the company.

Kaepernick, the currently unsigned former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, became a controversial figure for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and social injustice throughout the 2016 NFL season. So by endorsing him as the face of its 30th anniversary ad campaign, Nike appeared to be taking a risk.

Almost immediately after the ad was released, angry consumers–many of which were conservative–began posting pictures of Nike socks and shoes they had destroyed and declared they would be switching their allegiances to other brands like Adidas and Under Armour. Nike’s stock tumbled more than three percent.

But, Nike knew exactly what it was doing. Kaepernick tweeted an image Sept. 4 revealing himself as the face of the campaign, and over the next 24 hours the company generated a buzz worth $43 million in media exposure, according to a Sept. 4 Bloomberg report. Nike even released a statement instructing people on “how to burn our products properly.” And on Sept. 13, Nike stock closed at $83.47, a rebound from the initial dip and an all-time high for the apparel maker, according to ESPN.

The reason the campaign has been so successful is because Nike knows its consumers and their demographics.

“Old angry white guys are not a core demographic for Nike,” Sports Industry Analyst Matt Powell tweeted.

Nike consumers appear to be younger and more liberal–sympathetic to Kaepernick and his causes and more likely to buy sneakers. While 53 percent of Americans find it “never appropriate” to protest by kneeling during the national anthem, only 38 percent of Americans ages 18-35 feel the same, according to a 2018 study by the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation.

So despite President Trump’s claim that “Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts,” other companies may want to consider following Nike’s lead of taking a stand and supporting those who kneel. They will be standing by their principles and even boosting their sales.