For anyone living under a rock over the last year, let me quickly set the scene…
Trump is president (yup), gun control is as hot a topic as ever, and social & race tensions are at an all time high. Riding at the top of this all is a professional NFL athlete named Colin Kaepernick.
Who is Kaepernick and why should you care? Good question…
Kaepernick (Kap for short) was the franchise Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, taking the team all the way to the superbowl and being defeated narrowly by the Baltimore Ravens. To anyone looking in Kap had it all. But what we didn’t realise, was his burning passion for social injustice and specifically the plight of minority americans in the current day.
Understanding the power of his position and national stage he had with which to make a stance and begin a movement Kap spent some time speaking with U.S. army veteran Nate Boyer on how best to make his stance. Kap’s idea was simple, peaceful, and powerful. Before each NFL game he would take a knee while the rest of the nation stood for the national anthem. Pretty minor in the grand scheme of things you might say. You’d be wrong.
What followed was a huge fallout resulting in Kap now no longer being an active player in the NFL (despite arguably still being of value to a team with a need at QB). Political furor, a diving of opinion across the country ranging from heated debates to fans burning their jerseys like some strange misplaced effigy. The movement gathered momentum till it ran all the way up the flagpole far enough to catch the attention of twitter fan President Trump…who then became very vocally involved in this movement. And that’s what it’s become, a real movement.
What started as a simple protest by one man, now has thousands of amateur and professional athletes across many different sports all following suit across the nation. After some particularly vicious lashings from the Trump Twitter account the NFL was forced to defend itself and it’s players, with some teams then choosing to come out and all kneel together to show their stance and solidarity.
What does this have to do with Nike?
48 hours ago Nike announced that Colin Kaepernick was one of the faces of their new advertising campaign. This revelation comes only days after a court case where Kap is claiming against the collective NFL team owners for suspected collusion in keeping him out of work in the NFL, was given the green light to go to court.
So you can’t really blame Nike for rushing to sign a man who’s name, profile and any associations to anything ever will be in the spotlight for the next who knows how long once the case begins. In fact Adidas and Puma both came out to say, they too tried to sign Kap but were beaten out by Nike – who by the way are the official sponsor of the NFL. How’s that for conflict of interest?
So what’s with the doubt towards Nike’s motive?
Well, we’re marketers, some of us have been for a long time now. So we tip the hat to companies like this, big or small, who are smart and sharp enough to take advantage of situations and creatively make them deliver their needs. Fair play, that’s a good move, great idea well done. What we do find a little hard to swallow is the “Nike are making a social stance” tagline some online sources seem to be touting.
We’ve no doubt, at some point in the seemingly long sign off process to breathe life to this campaign idea someone somewhere considered the social impact and signed off to say “yeah Nike are ok to accept some unavoidable negative publicity with those against Kap and his stance”. But the figures speak for themselves, within 48 hours Nike had bagged an estimated $43 million worth of media exposure. Now there’s a saying “that’s PR money can’t buy” which isn’t really true, but no one (no not even Nike) would pay $43 million for one ad. This is an incredibly savvy, smart, business marketing decision which has paid off massively.
Influencer marketing at it’s finest.
The actual breakdown in sentiment of the spend works out around $10.91m Negative, $19.01 Positive and $13.76m Neutral. (source: Apex Marketing Group)
Speaking as a marketer, the “no such thing as bad press” isn’t really true. There’s a lot of tales of PR gone wrong which has sunk many a business. But, let me tell you this for free, it’s easy to take a gamble on some potential bad press (and america being america we’ve seen a spate of lunatics chopping the Nike swoosh off their clothing and burning their shoes, some while still wearing them….yes that’s true.) when if the absolute worse comes to the worse and it’s all a ball of flames and negativity then you can pull out your trump card (no not him) and say “Hey! Enough! This is all about social injustice and we’re taking a stance because it’s the right thing to do”. It’s a nice safety net.
So, while we commend both Kap and Nike, it’s for wholly different reasons.