Nike’s 30th anniversary campaign is largely being applauded by marketing and PR pros on social media for featuring quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
A photo of Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, is featured in Nike’s campaign with the caption, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
Kaepernick began kneeling during the pregame playing of the national anthem in 2016 to raise awareness about police brutality against African-Americans. He has not been signed by a team since the end of that season. Kaepernick has sued the league’s owners, accusing them of colluding to keep him unsigned.
The ad has garnered an increase of Nike brand mentions by 135% compared with the previous week, with a mix of positive and negative mentions, according to social media analytics firm Talkwalker. There have been more than 2.7 million mentions of Nike since Monday, a 1,400% increase compared with the previous day, according to Talkwalker.
The top social posts about Nike’s campaign came from tennis star Serena Williams, which got more than 178,000 engagements; Los Angeles Laker Kyle Kuzma, whose tweet garnered more than 43,000 engagements; YouTuber Casey Neistat, whose tweet got more than 85,000 engagements; and a tweet from sports reporter Jemele Hill that received 76,000 engagements.
While the campaign has prompted backlash from consumers who do not agree with Kaepernick’s stance, PR and marketing pros largely said on Twitter that the campaign is "brilliant." Here is what 11 industry pros said on the platform about Nike’s move.
Does anyone really think @Nike marketing team is stupid and not working with data? One of the most valuable brands of all time. This is a company that understands their brand and audience. A calculated risk and one on the right side of history. https://t.co/gzzVaKQIvd— Deirdre Latour (@DeirdreLatour) September 4, 2018
Nike taking a page from the Benetton advertising playbook. https://t.co/H9rNyl0DTS— Ron Culp (@Culpwrit) September 3, 2018
unfortunate. would wear. https://t.co/5FdcV4DiGp— drew olanoff (@yoda) September 4, 2018
This (and props to @Nike): https://t.co/FAjOZqEHRB— Peter Himler (@PeterHimler) September 3, 2018
Prepare for an onslaught of analyses and reviews on @Nike’s new #JustDoIt campaign featuring US football player @Kaepernick7, among other athletes. Should brands dive into roiling controversy?— David Gallagher (@TBoneGallagher) September 4, 2018
My hot take: in some cases, like this, yes. I bet the whole campaign will. pic.twitter.com/9lSHVtkurX
We missed you Nike Marketing Department. Welcome back. (And thank you). pic.twitter.com/UT0Zb9yTZF— Musa Tariq (@MusaTariq) September 3, 2018
Nike's Colin Kaepernick Campaign Is Brilliant. It's also risky -- for Kaepernick. https://t.co/WpjlW1qTl3 #PR— dorothy crenshaw (@dorocren) September 4, 2018
Brilliant to see a brand be this bold. Nike know this will alienate some but also know it'll greatly increase brand loyalty in many others. Inevitable that media will report on the backlash but I see this as a real #comms win pic.twitter.com/YVgnUqos7K— Kate Matthews (@KateFreelance) September 4, 2018
@nike endorsement Kaepernick will go down as boldest/genius marketing move of 2018. History judges people on their conviction, not views. The most revered athlete of century is Ali, not because of his skill or beliefs,,,but conviction.— Scott Galloway (@profgalloway) September 4, 2018
This is what a brand with a powerful purpose looks like. Counter to what some "marketing gurus" say, this will both drive sales and create loyalty. Hats off to you @Nike, a wonderful reminder of how brutally simple ideas can change the world ?? pic.twitter.com/W9wPQv7MDn— Faheem Chaudhry (@FaheemChaudhry) September 4, 2018
Over the years @Nike has done some incredible storytelling with its marketing which when executed at its best has resonated far beyond selling a shoe or a lifestyle but to reach a point of reflection on one’s agency as a symbol of our shared humanity. pic.twitter.com/7c8PY4YfFM— Robert Michael Murray ?? (@rmmageddon) September 3, 2018
Not everyone loved Nike’s latest campaign. Here’s what others had to say about its embrace of Kaepernick.
Let’s be careful before we start applauding Nike. I agree Kaepernick deserves to be lifted up, supported and listened to. But this is a 28 billion dollar company that still uses non-unionized sweatshop labor. This is PR. They aren’t actvists. They’re turning activism into profit.— Patrick J Adams (@halfadams) September 4, 2018
This is also why having people with different opinions in your board room matters more than having people who look different, but all think the same. This will be a PR disaster for Nike. Insanely dumb.— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 3, 2018
This won’t end well for @Nike , bad PR move by them, you never alienate half your audience @ClayTravis @Outkick— Erica Kaiser (@EricaMKaiser) September 4, 2018