Meet the new face of Nike. Colin Kaepernick.
Colin Kaepernick was a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He initially made headlines back in 2016 for choosing to kneel during the national anthem before each game. He reasoned his actions because he didn’t feel the United States was representing all Americans.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder” [referring to the string of incidents involving police brutality and the unjust deaths of African Americans.]
When Colin’s contract with the 49er’s ended, Colin decided to become a free agent. He was confident in his performance on field, expecting a few offers from other teams. Unfortunately none of the other NFL teams offered him a contract, leaving Colin unemployed until today. Colin filed a grievance suit against the NFL, believing that the team owners colluded to keep him out of the league.
On September 3, a week before the start of the NFL season, Nike tweeted Colin as the newest face of its ‘Just Do It’ campaign. The caption read “Believe in Something even if it means sacrificing everything” a timely nod to Colin’s current unemployment status due to his political activism.
Nike’s decision to have Colin as it’s newest face was met with both positive and negative responses.
Sam, an exchange student from the United States said:
“I side against kneeling. While we are the land of the free, I feel that kneeling during the national anthem, which is essentially a moment of silence and respect for our troops, is not the right time for this. My father, as a coast guard veteran, feels as though looking past the meaning behind the anthem is disrespectful to him and his fellow soldiers who helped to give us the freedom of speech in the first place.”
In a more extreme turn of events, consumers against Nike’s brand ambassador, photographed themselves defacing their products and boycotting the Nike brand altogether as they felt supporting the brand meant being unpatriotic to America.
Of course these outrageous political stances were also met with hilarious criticism.
“This is terrible marketing. Just awful. I’m gonna show everyone how terrible this is. That’ll show Nike.” pic.twitter.com/XNN06YnPMF
— mike mulloy (@fakemikemulloy) September 4, 2018
them: Gonna burn/throw away my Nike gear because they are unpatriotic
— Mario (@mtehuitz) September 4, 2018
The boycott led to a 2% drop in sales the following day. The support eventually outnumbered the criticism with sales surging 31% the following week, according to Eddison trends.
Commodity activism is a risky marketing move. It merges the simplicity of consumer culture with taboo socio-political issues. The move can either result in becoming one of the greatest marketing ventures or the demise of a once iconic brand. Nike has successfully done the former.