Nike appears to have weathered the storm caused by its controversial advertising campaign featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. There was initial backlash from conservatives including President Trump, but also high-profile support on Twitter from celebrities like LeBron James, Alicia Keys, and Ricky Martin. Nick Saban and Ford also backed NFL players’ right to protest.
According to a Wall Street analyst, Canaccord Genuity’s Camilo Lyon, “It was courageous in that Nike took a stand in support of a social issue where few (if any) companies have of late,” the analyst added. “It spoke to Nike’s core consumers in a very Nike-esque provocative way that shows it understands them and the issues that matter to them.”
After first declining,Nike shares have rebounded, up 3.6% over the past five trading days to erase all the initial losses, and then some. Online sales soared 31% from the Sunday of Labor Day weekend until Tuesday, September 4th, beating back fears that calls to boycott the brand would take a negative toll.
Though Nike has been the country’s preeminent sneaker and sports apparel company for a generation, Adidas has steadily been making headway, particularly with younger people. In the second quarter of 2018, Adidas posted a $485 million profit, shattering Wall Street expectations.
Nike knows it’s missing the important youth demographic as many of its well-known athletes outside the NBA (such as Tiger Woods and Serena Williams) are at the back end of their careers and lack teenage fan bases. Nike recently ended sponsorship for Roger Federer after two decades. However, that’s what shoe companies must do: figure out not just who their customers are now, but who their customers will be in five years, 10 years and beyond.
- Of 9,000 replies to a Nike tweet about the ad, 46% were positive, 39% were neutral, and 15% were negative.
- After the ad launched, Nike became the most mentioned company on Twitter with 8.8 million mentions.
- Mayor Ben Zahn of Kenner, Louisiana instructed the parks and recreation department that none of the city’s $125,000 leisure supplies budget be spent on Nike products. The mayor later rescinded the ban on the advice of the city attorney after drawing strong criticism from in an outside the city.
Quests and Actions (Q&A):
- For tough issues, how have you weathered a storm while keeping your integrity intact?
- Are brands like Nike, able to become part of social decision-making by seeking an irreverent, anti-establishment tone they hope will be appealing?
- Are ads that challenge us to think differently and aspire to do more a good thing for society?
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