When it comes to marketing, controversial choices are always risky. This week Nike took a gamble and appointed ex-NFL quarterback Kaepernick as the face of the brand’s new campaign. Despite critics burning their Nike kickers and supporters hailing for the brave choice, one thing is sure: the nomination received a media buzz worth over 43 million USD for Nike.
Sportswear manufacturer Nike announced that it will feature ex National Football League (NFL) quarterback Colin Kaepernick in its newest campaign. What makes the choice controversial is that Kaepernick has not played for two years after being rejected by the NFL: during the national anthem in the beginning of a game, Kaepernick kneeled to the ground as a protest to injustice and police brutality.
Initial lash back
As a response, Nike’s stock plummeted by 2.9% and hashtags #BoycottNike and #JustBurnIt started trending on Twitter, with people uploading videos of themselves burning Nike merchandise and cutting the swoosh logo off the apparel. Even US president Trump commented that Nike was sending “a terrible message” with its campaign.
However, many also praised the braveness of Nike. Kaepernick’s protest gained the support of former CIA director John Brennan and tennis star Serena Williams, among many others – including their target customer base.
A tactical move
Despite the controversy, Nike’s decision doesn’t really come as a surprise. Most of Nike’s customers are under 35 and belong to an ethnically diverse group, according to Bloomberg. This consumer group is likely to embrace Nike’s campaign, which features co-athletes Serena Williams, who has faced racist and sexist attacks throughout her career, and LeBron James, perhaps the best basketball player in the world, whose intelligence Trump has openly insulted.
By aligning itself with these athletes and their values, Nike is making a thoroughly considered marketing move. The message that the company sends resonates with its socially aware target customers.
The name of the game
Nike gambles that the majority will understand where Kaepernick is coming from with his protest, and the manufacturer seems to have made the right move. In fact, many companies are now actively putting money and effort into conveying their values to the public. For example, Finlayson’s equal pay campaign provoked discussion in Finland, while Facebook took a strong stance for marriage equality in Australia and launched an extensive campaign for the case.
A brand needs to stand behind the values it tells the public it is supporting and prove it. Brave moves such as Nike’s receive the public’s appreciation as they perceive the company being genuine and honest with its customers. The new rule to stay in the game is to choose a side or get out. #JustKeepDoingIt