Nike gained an enormous amount of brand attention this weekend when it named Colin Kaepernick the face of its 30th Anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. The ad spawned passionate responses from fans and critics alike but as history shows, Nike knows and accepts the risk of such partnerships.
On Labor Day, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick posted the new Nike ad that shows his face and the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Kaepernick recently sued the NFL for collusion—alleging that he was prevented from being signed to a team after he began kneeling during the National Anthem.
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
Just as Kaepernick’s choice to take a knee spurred outcries support and criticism alike, Nike’s choice to make him the face of its campaign definitely sparked conversation online.
A number of social media users posted photos or videos of them burning Nike products or cutting the “swoosh” logo off. Others called for an immediate boycott. Hashtags began trending on Tuesday morning, including #JustBurnIt and #BoycottNike.
First the @NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. I chose country. Then @Nike forces me to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American Flag and the National Anthem become offensive? pic.twitter.com/4CVQdTHUH4
— Sean Clancy (@sclancy79) September 3, 2018
Several military veterans came to the defense of Kaepernick, however, saying that they fought for his right to protest peacefully. Many more fans, veterans and civilians alike, praised the football star for continuing to protest despite pressure from the NFL, whose viewership has since declined 10 percent.
Nike shares dropped three percent on Tuesday following social media backlash, but the brand undoubtedly knew the risks when it chose Kaepernick.
“We believe Colin [Kaepernick] is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward,” Gino Fisanotti, Nike’s vice president of brand for North America, told ESPN.
Sports journalist Jemele Hill reminded her followers that money is a great motivator for Nike’s choice of spokesman. “I’m just here to remind folks that last year Colin Kaepernick was in the top 50 in NFL jersey sales, despite not being on a roster,” she tweeted. “Nike made a business move.”
Brave choise by @Nike to go with @Kaepernick7. Once again Nike are pushing the limits in terms of branding. Nowadays companies must stand up for something – even though it's political or dividing opinions. Nike will easily survive the #JustBurnIt opposition.
— Lars Granat Jensen (@LarsGranat) September 4, 2018
According to Apex Marketing Group, the divisive Nike campaign has generated over $43 million in media exposure within its first 19 hours.
Nike’s new @Kaepernick7 ad generated $43 million in media exposure in its first 19 hours, per @ApexMGAnalytics. Despite a very vocal outpouring of criticism, almost half of that was positive, less than a quarter was negative. #SportsBiz pic.twitter.com/EAlQ5ktTh4
— Eben Novy-Williams (@novy_williams) September 4, 2018