Just Do It.

 Photo by Martin Schoeller

Photo by Martin Schoeller

By Natalie Sizelove

We've all heard the buzz surrounding Nike and Colin Kaepernick's recent controversial ad campaign. Announced at the beginning of September 2018, the advertisements feature the tagline "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” Nike fans around the world were astounded when the brand decided to team up with Kaepernick, due to his controversial history.

In 2016, Kaepernick became a national figure when he decided to sit and later kneel during the national anthem before each NFL game he played. This was done as a statement against police brutality and oppression of people of color. Kaepernick gave his reasoning, stating that “People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody." This protest didn't sit well with everyone, as many thought it was disrespectful to those serving in the military. Kaepernick, however, told the public that his decision to kneel was influenced by U.S. Army veteran Nate Boyer, who supported his decision to peacefully protest police brutality. After his 2016 season with the 49er's, Kaepernick became a free agent and has yet to be picked up by another team.


With all this controversy surrounding Kaepernick, the question on a lot of people's minds is why Nike decided to use him as the headliner for their 30-year anniversary campaign. In fact, Nike almost severed ties with Kaepernick over a year ago, because they weren't sure what to do with a football player that wasn't playing football. But after a top communication executive convinced colleagues to keep him on, the company began to realize that maybe this highly controversial figure could be used to their advantage.


Nike mainly caters to a young, urban audience, and Kaepernick's brand fits well with this demographic. By embracing an athlete that other brands were hesitant to use, Nike differentiated themselves and were able to make a huge splash with this campaign. Opinions on the partnership varied widely, with some applauding Nike for their forward stance on social issues, and others furious that they would encourage Kaepernick's anti-patriotism. Videos popped up on social media of people burning their Nike shoes in protest, further stoking the fire. So, was Nike's ad a huge success or a huge catastrophe?

It depends who you ask. A survey in mid-September showed Nike’s favorability ratings declined since the Kaepernick ad was released, but another metric showed that Nike’s online revenue rose 31% in the month following the ad release. Their stock has also risen 6% since the controversial ad was released. So while Nike may have lost favorability with some buyers, the ad seems to be doing more good than harm for the company.

This goes to show that taking risks in advertising can often have a huge payoff. The Kaepernick ads caused controversy and conversation, and as the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity.

Taking a stand on this issue must have been a very difficult decision for the company, but ultimately the bold move paid off. As members of Inigo, we can’t be afraid of disrupting social norms in order to stand (or kneel) for something we believe in. While it may not pay off as well as the Kaepernick ads every time, taking a stand for something your company believes in is always the right choice. And as the ad reminds us, it is necessary to “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”