I’m An Avid Nike Consumer, But Here’s Why I’m Struggling To Rally Behind The Company’s Kaepernick Focused Campaign
Politics or profit?
Nike recently tapped former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to be one of the faces for its 30 year anniversary" Just Do It" slogan campaign. Kaepernick, who began kneeling in 2016 during the national anthem in a peaceful protest against police brutality, has been systematically banned from competing in the NFL. This protest drew a polarizing line in the sand, garnering national and international attention, perhaps most noteworthy, from President Trump, who referred to anyone taking a knee during the anthem as "sons of bitches."
In using Kaepernick as part of their campaign, Nike is facing backlash across the country. From the burning of Nike apparel, to the #NikeBoycott hashtag on Twitter, to a dip in stock, critics of Kaepernick and his protest are outraged at Nike's support for him. However, much of the response has portrayed Nike as taking a positive stand and placing itself on the right side of history with headlines reading "Nike takes sides, tapping Colin Kaepernick for new 'Just Do It' ad" (CNN), "Nike 'Just Did It' With Colin Kaepernick, And You Should Applaud" (Forbes) and "Colin Kaepernick's new 'Just Do it' Nike ad puts pressure on NFL to take a stand" (USA Today).
Personally, I'm an avid Nike consumer and supporter of Colin Kaepernick, however I can't help but think that Nike's support for Kaepernick is nothing more than a strategic business move and not the political statement many are proclaiming it to be. Nike's sales performance among younger millennials age 18-24 (increasingly minority and anti-Trump) is weaker than it is for its older consumers. This data is an early indicator for stagnant growth which may be coupled with increased labor costs as Nike works to clean up its image as a violator of labor laws overseas. Perhaps I am being overly pessimistic, but this would not be the first time a corporation has taken full advantage of social strife and controversy, particularly within the black community, and turned it into profit. This was quite timely in culmination with the controversy around Serena's all black Nike uniform.
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Skepticism aside, this was a huge power move by Nike. With Kaepernick's collusion case against the NFL claiming that team owners banded together to keep him out, the National Anthem policy in flux and Nike being the producer of NFL apparel, this move does make a clear point on which side of the controversy the athletic apparel giant stands on. Whether Nike made this move for profit or for politics, all eyes have been placed on the NFL and the pressure is on to either make a shift (which based on their recent comment acknowledging the importance of the issues Kaepernick has been raising, they may be) or push back.