Nike, Just Did That

The ad campaign that shocked the world: on September 3rd, 2018, Nike released the ad for who would be the new “face of Nike,” and to the nation’s surprise, Nike had chosen Colin Kaepernick. The company released a poster of a stern-faced Kaepernick, including the caption, “Believe In Something, Even If It Means Sacrificing Everything,” along with a promo video titled “Dream Crazy,” which was narrated by Kaepernick.

Colin Kaepernick has been under the world’s microscope ever since September 1st, 2016, when he knelt on one knee at his final preseason game with the San Francisco 49ers as the national anthem played. His actions have received both scorn and praise across media and news outlets, drawing not only national, but also global attention. Some praise him for his courage and dedication to the protest against police brutality, others see him as an unpatriotic traitor to the nation, arguing that kneeling disrespects the country and the military. Nevertheless, Kaepernick has started a trend for athletes all over the nation.

Since that event, his contract was terminated, and he has not been signed since, remaining a free agent. Some argue it is his lack of skill that has prevented him from getting re-signed, but more likely, the answer is that no football organization is brave enough to take on the reputation that comes with this highly controversial player. Many believe his protests will, or even already, end his career. That is where I believe the meaning of his slogan lies: he was willing to lose everything for what he believed in.

This ad has caught global attention, and blindsided millions, especially Nike customers who did not know Nike had been sponsoring Kaepernick. The impact could not simply go unnoticed. Feedback has been, to say the least, mixed. Videos sprung up on the internet of angry patrons burning or destroying their Nike apparel, threatening to boycott the brand and never purchase again from Nike stores for their support of Kaepernick. Others have had a completely opposite response, praising Nike for not only giving Kaepernick a redemptive chance, but picking a side and standing with the fight against police brutality. Many have vowed to purchase solely from Nike for this monumental message.

One can only imagine how such a move actually affected Nike financially, in terms of sales and stocks. Overall, the company has not seen significant long-standing change. Initially on the release date of the ad, online sales rose while stock value dropped slightly, but as time has gone on, prices have equilibrated to the point where there doesn't seem to have been any great effect left on the company. It is unclear what Nike had predicted, or even intended, for this media move to do for their company. However, as of now, it appears they were able to drop their message without any serious repercussions.

It’s also interesting to see how other companies react to this “power move” made by Nike. Although no major companies have released direct statements in support or in opposition to Nike, one can only question if this will now open the door to other companies taking on politicized ads as well. This could start a new, certainly important trend in the industry. Although not all companies may have the name recognition, great budget, or notable celebrities at their disposal, I think that any company ought to use their platform to send a message that matters, rather than just gain revenue. I believe it is a civic duty, and I hope Nike has started the change towards a new type of advertisement, one inspired by cultural discussion.

In this moment, Nike is a taking a page out of Kaepernick's book. They took a huge risk by putting him as their face, being such a contested and controversial figure, but they were bold and brave enough to take a position in an extremely important contemporary issue. I believe the actions of Nike show their commitment to the fight to stop police brutality, and one can only imagine this is what they were trying to show the world.

I am extremely impressed and proud to wear Nike. They reinstated a platform and voice for Kaepernick, and the message that they put forth was heard by millions. No doubt, I look forward to seeing Nike’s future campaigns, and it will be interesting to see how other companies will react to the power move made by this incredibly influential brand.