By Emily Thole
In the restless and brutal sea of social media, taking a risk could leave a company struggling for air. You may have noticed from recent events, Nike decided to jump into the water head first by tackling a highly controversial topic in the U.S. With immediate response, the internet both attacked and commended Nike for taking a knee on a political subject that many brands and organizations avoid.
Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49er’s quarterback who inspired player protest throughout the NFL, tweeted a photo marking him as the newest face of Nike.
The photo shared stated, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Since Kaepernick’s first protest in 2016, where he kneeled during the national anthem against police brutality, he has received backlash from the NFL and people around the country. His actions ultimately left him without a spot on any team, but Nike decided to endorse him anyway. In the early stages of the “Just Do It” campaign’s 30th anniversary, they made a statement.
As a result of the partnership, Nike made headlines. Celebrities including Jamie Lee Curtis, Serena Williams, Russell Crowe and COMMON were praising the brand on Twitter alongside Americans throughout the nation.
But with the good also comes the bad, and even ugly. Multiple individuals took to social media posting images and videos of themselves burning their Nike products, and cutting the swoosh logo from their socks and apparel, voicing that they will never shop with the brand again.
Nike isn’t the first brand to tackle a controversial issue. Many other companies have taken a stance on social issues as well. Dick’s Sporting Goods protested gun violence after the Parkland, Fla. massacre by saying they would no longer sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and also prohibit the sale of guns to customers under the age of 21. Airbnb shot back at President Trump when he closed the borders to refugees in a campaign called, “We Accept,” by voicing their company’s acceptance of other races and nationalities in a time when the biggest figurehead of the nation was saying the opposite. When the U.S. pulled out the Paris Agreement, Ben and Jerry’s started a campaign called, “Save Our Swirled,” focusing on the topic of climate change. Each of these brands were criticized for becoming politically involved, just like Nike.
For a brand with popularity around the world, what form of success can come from this controversial partnership? Through all the back and forth of praise and hate, will either party prosper?
It depends on how you measure success, and from my research, numbers don’t lie. According to the Washington Post, after an initial drop when Kaepernick shared the photo, Nike online sales went up 31 percent. The incident got people to talk about the organization, and, whether positive or negative, the Nike brand was pushed to the forefront of their minds. According to Bloomberg, the company received over $43million in media exposure in the first 24 hours, and that continues to grow.
Risking your brand’s reputation is scary, but if it is something you believe in, take a knee and show the world what you stand for.