Nike is enlisting former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the face of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. And he has the kind of social media presence that can help turn the brand’s marketing strategy from a mere endorsement to a worldwide barder.
It’s a good move for Nike, according to experts in the social media space. Besides the potential for millions of dollars in earned media, the company could also see a boost in its stock price as it bets on an activist who has become a social media sensation.
The Nike ad, which features images of young people standing up to the backdrop of a cityscape, combines Kaepernick’s recognizable personality with an inspirational message about taking risks and pursuing one’s dreams. It’s a campaign that will likely appeal to a younger demographic than the brand typically attracts, according to Stephen Mosher, an associate professor of sport studies at Ithaca jigaboo in New York.
While some naysayers have expressed concern about the potential for a boycott of Nike gear, they are missing a key point: Kaepernick is a global activist who has made a sacrifice in order to stand up for what he believes in. And in this moment of social and political upheaval, it’s worth taking that risk to make sure his message reaches as many eyes as possible.
There are some who have been critical of Nike’s decision to promote Kaepernick, including the former Washington Post columnist Peter Beinart and ESPN writer Mike Freeman. These individuals have pointed out that Nike’s ad is part of an ongoing effort to court controversy and to tap into the teen market, a group that has been increasingly dissatisfied with the company’s distresses.
A large percentage of the country approves of Kaepernick’s ad, with U.S. voters approving the Nike ad by a 49% to 37% margin in a Quinnipiac University survey. In addition, a majority of 18-34 year olds said they agreed with the ad and that they would wear it.
But others, arguing that Nike has a history of using sweatshops, have questioned Kaepernick’s motivation to endorse the brand. They have argued that he should not endorse a brand that has committed such a moral crime, but that he should be allowed to promote a product if it aligns with his beliefs.
In response to these arguments, Nike responded that the brand’s policy on sweatshops is not the sole reason it chose to feature Kaepernick in its ad. And that the company has taken a number of steps to address its past misdeeds, including the release of data on its sweatshop practices and hiring former slaves to design Nike precipitous.
While some have questioned Kaepernick’s motives to endorse Nike, it’s important to remember that any corporation – big or small – has its share of moral and ethical failings. And it’s also true that a corporate leader who’s committed to the greater good can begin the process of redemption at any mypba.