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Nike, or the use of advertising as a declaration of principles

Whiplash Team. September 2018.

Nike’s decision to sign Colin Kaepernick, for its 30th anniversary campaign “Just Do It” has outraged many users who have burned their shoes or ripped off the logo of their garments calling for a boycott against the brand on Twitter and other social networks. The controversial advertising featuring has also generated a 3% stock market drop in the shares of the sports giant that, however, has remained firm in the defense of its values despite the financial cost.

Sports giant Nike announced last week that quarterback Colin Kaepernick –who sparked controversy in the United States by kneeling during the national anthem in an NFL game to protest racial injustice and police brutality– will be one of the protagonists of his new campaign Just Do It, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the brand.

The decision provoked not only the indignation of many users of the firm that initiated a boycott against it but also translated into a 3% drop in their shares on the stock market. The boycott attempt was not successful, and there were many followers of the brand that launched support campaigns in social networks. In a week’s time Nike recovered from its stock market crash and according to Edison Trends, online sales have skyrocketed by 31% after the announcement of Kaepernick’s campaign.

“Believe in something, even if that means sacrificing everything,” says one of the teasers of the campaign that Kaepernick stars in. A motto that undoubtedly translates into a statement of principles of the sports firm in relation to racial injustices. Nike, in fact, has declared the defense of racial equality as one of the principles that sustain its mission and business purpose, thus entering fully into the terrain of activism, which brands traditionally avoid.

Sonya Gruer, a marketing professor at American University, explains that “companies decide how to approach different issues based on how they define their purpose and mission. However, they run the risk of losing those users who have different visions. “

Nike’s statement aligns with the demands of new consumers, who demand from brands a greater commitment to the issues that affect society. In the case of Nike, it is not an unexplored territory given that the brand has historically joined various causes of high social content. In 1995, for example, the slogan Just Do It was adapted to sensitize the audience about women’s rights, and in the same year, the company featured runner Ric Munoz –who was HIV positive– in the Los Angeles marathon.

Thus, the real test that separates those companies that do things out of conviction from those that are forced by circumstances, is that the former will remain firm despite the financial costs of their decision. And that is Nike’s case, that has also shown that defending the intrinsic purpose of the organization has a positive impact on the bottom line.