Last year, Nike made the controversial decision to feature former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in an advertising campaign. Kaepernick had practically sacrificed his football career to protest police brutality against African Americans. By taking a knee during the pregame national anthem, he created a heated social conversation that left the NFL, players, fans, and a number of other groups at odds at one another.
Many felt that Kaepernick was disrespecting the flag. But those are just the naive and ignorant individuals who fail to see the bigger picture, those who rarely feel any injustice due to their racial makeup, and those that are, simply, selfish.
As expected, a number of people were outraged at Nike’s decision and vowed to boycott the Swoosh. Almost like a protest? Being the logical social reformers they are, they expressed their disgust on social media by destroying Nike products they had already purchased. Nike probably scoffed at these imbeciles and proceeded with the campaign as planned.
Nike is one of the best marketing organizations ever. The way it built its brand to represent passion, performance and excellence has established the blueprint on how companies engage consumers. Featuring Kaepernick was definitely a calculated decision. Nike understands that the demographic that detests Kaepernick and his protest isn’t their core audience and any pushback will be like a mosquito trying to push back against an elephant. In contrast, the demographic that understands the movement will gravitate towards Nike’s stance.
“It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it”Phil KnigHT, Founder, Nike
Much more people applauded the campaign and 1 year later after its launch, Nike’s brand is stronger than ever. In UBS’s latest annual survey of US consumers about athletic brands, Nike received the highest net promoter score, a metric that captures how likely shoppers are to recommend a brand to a friend. The survey also found that shoppers’ perceptions of Nike have largely improved or remained unchanged. The company owns the global footwear space with 27.4% market share in 2019 with a solid margin from its main competitor, adidas. The support is also seen in the bottom line as shares of Nike stock is up almost 8% since the last trading day before the Kaepernick ad was revealed.
This is an example of a major corporation taking a social stand, which has been more prevalent in today’s political and social climate, and producing positive results from it. The key to success is understanding your core and most valued customers, and determining if that stance is both authentic and aligned with the feelings of that customer base.