Nike is hot right now, literally burning hot – and not just because sales are up 30 percent. Rather because people have taken to setting their Nikes ablaze in protest of a new ad campaign that features former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the slogan “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” The one-liner refers to Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem at his games despite the consequences. His actions quickly gained national attention, even becoming subject of a tweet from the president. Numerous kneeled with him. And just as many stood against him. What is the take away from all of this?
Nike’s Kaepernick Sponsorship
The new ad campaign was unveiled just days before the start of the 2018 NFL season. Its centerpiece was a minute long commercial, narrated by the ex-quarterback, remembering some barrier-breaking athletes of the past and celebrating those of the future. Nike is catching major shade for it, but the public hasn’t had a negative reaction entirely. The social justice ethos is apparently a sentiment shared by more than a few. So much so that after an initial dip in Nike’s stock, the retail giant saw a 30 percent jump in sales over the Labor Day weekend. That is by no means marginal – or by accident.
Kaepernick Goes Beyond Football
Although it’s not unordinary for sportswear retailers to contract athletes to promote their brand, there is something unique about Kaepernick in particular. He is more than an athlete. He would more accurately be called a celebrity. Now, he’s not even an active player. The controversy surrounding his demonstrations have shooed team owners away from signing him. The negative publicity would presumably not be worth the added talent. But Nike has otherwise decided to carry through. So, what does Nike see that others maybe don’t?
A New Kind of Consumer
The market is changing. In fact, it always has been. The more consumers can place themselves in the public eye, the more they will direct their consuming efforts towards it. That means that what you buy has as much to do with where you stand on pivotal issues as it does with the potential utility of the product. Private consumption has contracted public responsibility.
In fact, 57 percent of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue, according to the 2017 Edelman Earned Brand Study. With 30 percent saying that they make these belief-driven purchase decisions more than they did three years ago. People are buying more than just a product and Nike may be succeeding in what they have always striven for – to be more than just sportswear.