Nike’s six billion dollar market value increase came as a surprise to some after the controversial ‘Just Do It’ campaign with Colin Kaepernick in September. The deal was prompted with a powerful and politically charged statement that could have cost Nike many customers. Some may wonder why something that received so much hate and backlash in the media is profiting this much.
In 2016, during Kaepernick’s time as the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, he began kneeling during the national anthem before games in protest of inequality and police brutality. After that season, Kaepernick left the 49ers and became a free agent. However, no teams signed Kaepernick the following season. Many advocate that this was because of his field protest and the vocal backlash it received.
Nike’s move was seen as risky because they have been involved in a partnership with the National Football League since 2012. Making a political statement is often times avoided by major companies so they don’t lose customers. David Skidmore, a politics professor at Drake University, said Nike made a smart decision releasing this campaign with the target market they were trying to reach.
“This is a very polarized time and companies can sit on the sidelines or they can pick a side and try and build a brand around a certain set a values,” Skidmore said. “When you do that, then you’ll gain some loyalty from those who happen to agree with you.”
Initially, their market value went down, but the support behind this deal was shown when Nike had an all-time high market value increase, despite the videos of people burning and boycotting Nike products. Skidmore then went further into political identifiers within the country that may have affected some of Nike’s decision making.
Skidmore uses the term “socially conscious branding” to describe the decisions made by big companies like Nike recently. With high polarization at the moment, some say it makes tactical sense for businesses to pick a side or values they want to focus on. African-Americans and younger generations are two of their top demographics, so supporting this resistance movement can be smart on the business end of things.
Heidi Mannetter, a marketing professor at Drake University, agrees that Nike was smart in being aware of who and what their target market is when making this decision. Mannetter stated that it was most likely very well thought out before being released.
“Nike used their sophisticated marketing and analytic capabilities to make a calculated risk based on what the firm knows and understands about their target market,” Mannetter said.
It can be seen as a big leap by a company to take such a political stand where few others have dared to go in the past. In an article by The New York Times, Camilo Lyon, an analyst at the financial services Canaccord Genuity, wrote that Nike was “courageous” in taking a stand “in support of social issues where few (if any) companies have as of late.”
Only time can tell whether this type of marketing tragedy will continue, but with this generation of adults, Skidmore believes it’s a tactic that is here to stay due to the conflict the United States finds itself in. However, he doesn’t see this as an entirely negative thing for the country and its future progress.
“The opposite of politicization is apathy and I think when we are too apathetic we let other people make choices for us,” Skidmore said. “Often the periods in American history where we see the most positive progress are in periods of conflict.”