If anyone was expecting the uproar surrounding Nike’s controversial decision to use Colin Kaepernick in its new ad campaign to simmer down, brace yourself. ESPN reports that the company is planning to run the first video version during the NFL’s opening game Thursday, where it is sure to ignite more outrage.
The spot is called “Dream Crazy,” and is the second film in Nike’s JDI series, designed to celebrate 30 years of the “Just do it” tagline.
Kaepernick, who is seen as either a great civil rights activist or a disrespectful troublemaker, depending on whom you ask, voices the ad. It includes appearances by other Nike professional athletes like LeBron James, Serena Williams and Odell Beckham Jr.
But it also shows off the skills of amazing athletes you’ve never heard of, like 29-year-old wheelchair basketball player Megan Blunk, who took gold in Rio in 2016; Isaiah Bird, born without legs, a 10-year-old wrestling champ; and Alicia Woollcott, who managed to play linebacker and get named homecoming queen during her senior year.
Like the print, digital and outdoor ads, it ends by telling viewers to “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
ESPN reports that Nike kept the news that Kaepernick would be involved in a future campaign from key players both inside and outside the company, including the NFL, its largest sponsored teams and retailers.
Nike has been the official apparel supplier of the NFL since 2012, and recently signed a 10-year deal to remain the official apparel supplier of the league through 2028.
In a surprise move, the NFL, which has banished players who protest the anthem to locker rooms and recently lost a legal round to Kaepernick’s collusion case, actually praised Kaepernick in a statement.
“The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity,” one of its executives said in a statement. “We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities. The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”
President Donald Trump tweeted that “Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts.”
Nike’s stock did fall from $82 per share to $80 and is recovering a bit. But it is still near its highest level in years, up sharply from the $50 range it traded in a year ago.
But its social-media buzz is booming, with social mentions jumping 1,400% to 2.7 million in the day after Kaepernick posted the ad image of himself on Twitter, simply hashtagged #JustDoIt, according to Mobile Marketer. It says overall Nike brand mentions are up 135%. (Many, of course, are of the #BoycottNike variety.)
For Nike, the Kaepernick hoopla is just part of a larger plan to celebrate “Just do it” around the world. It’s already released the first in the JDI series: "Voice of Belief," starring Serena Williams. And earlier this week, it released its frisky, feminist “Juntas Imparables,” or “Unstoppable Together.” Its first JDI campaign for Nike Women in Mexico, the humorous spot features well-known Mexican athletes sprinting through Mexico City’s infamous traffic and is linked to a cause-marketing campaign that translates women’s running minutes to donations for a children’s charity.