Commentary

Kaepernick's Nike Ad Lit Up Media. Will A TV Ad Be Next?

Consumer brands walk the edge of controversy -- or right in the middle.

Nike wants you to think about Colin Kaepernick as the new NFL season is beginning. Kaepernick hasn’t played football in awhile. Does that matter when it comes to selling apparel or athletic shoes?

Right now, there is a print ad with an extreme close-up of Kaepernick and a graphic above his forehead that reads: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.” 

Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem in the 2016 season; it was his protest to racial injustice. Nike’s social media stuff is up over 1,000% — apparently as a result of the print ad. That includes many social media video posts of Nike socks and shoes going up in flames.

According to social media observer Sprinklr, in the 24-hour period from September 3 to September 4, there were 3.4 million mentions of Nike and 1.5 million mentions of Colin Kaepernick.  Key hashtags: #JustDoIt. 429,874 mentions; #Nike, 145,986 mentions; #BoycottNike, 69,257 mentions; #Nikeboycott, 53,195 mentions; #ColinKaepernick, 37,113 mentions.

Nike’s algorithms are better than your algorithms.

President Trump said in a Wednesday tweet: “Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way?” No and yes -- the latter coming from around half positive/half negative reactions, according to analysts.

Maybe you play the odds; Trump has his supporters. And they are loyal. But by all estimations, he doesn’t have the majority of U.S. voters. I wonder if he had any idea it would be this way.

Gino Fisanotti, Nike’s brand vice president, North America, told ESPN: “We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward.”

Nike’s overall message: While people love their sports, maybe they love their athletes who are not only tough on the field, but off, kneeling and staring into the abyss. Or perhaps just on the sidelines -- like the rest of us.

The ad comes as players will decide what to do when the national anthem plays this season.

The NFL has instituted a rule in which players either need to stand on the sidelines during the national anthem or stay in the locker room while it’s being played. The NFL players union, however, insists players have a right to protest.

Interesting aside: TV networks aren’t looking to change the musical overture of their sports TV productions — many don’t even show the playing of national anthem.

And there will be more to come.

Though just a print ad now, Nike will run a Kaepernick TV commercial during NBC's NFL season opener on Thursday night. Imagine all the Nike hoodies going up in flames then — and your red-hot social media doing its marketing work.

 

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