Nike's Just Do It 30th Anniversary
All opinions stated are my own, and solely my own.
What makes a good ad campaign? The product? The message? The person representing the brand? I believe the best campaigns are a combination or layer of all of the above. Without one supporting and reinforcing the others, your entire campaign can feel lacking in one way or another.
Nike made headlines this Labor Day when Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL player who, most notably, was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers kneeling to protest police brutality and injustice against people of color at the hands of U.S. law enforcement. Kaepernick posted a tweet on Monday afternoon with a simple, yet powerful message:
"Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
The black and white photo has the signature "Just Do It." phrase from Nike, which is actually celebrating the 30th year of usage for the famous tagline. Funny enough, this isn't the first time Nike took a hard stance on a very public issue. This whole "Just Do It 30th Anniversary" campaign is... in a word.. Wild and daring.
However, I'm just going to focus on the genius that is this Nike campaign and why it is going to be so successful in spreading not only brand awareness, but also awareness to the issues that seriously matter in our country.
No matter what side of the "kneeling during the anthem" issue you're on, you're paying attention. Why? Because the media is constantly talking about it. I mean, it's pretty hard not to when it has caused such a rift in relationships and controversy between the parties. First of all, I just want to say that this issue if not up for debate. This protest was not to "disrespect the military" how some pundits like to frame it. It was solely to protest the injustices people of color face at a much, much higher rate against police. The protest gained traction via social media after Kaepernick knelt for the first time during a game. It had everyone talking. Soon there were hashtags, boycotts, and endless articles trying to dissect the peaceful protest.
According to Pew Research, 69% of U.S. adults use social media, with 86% of that 69% being adults ages 18-29. That is a HUGE audience for Nike to take advantage of. As a millennial myself, I grew up on Nike's. I wore them to school, as basketball shoes, running shoes, cleats, you name it. Their brand is almost synonymous with sports, since they have been sponsoring teams forever and have been around for the majority of our lives. We're already Nike addicts, and Nike knows that. Right now, millennials are more democratic or democratic leaning than any time in the past decade and are also on the rise to being the highest spenders. As people grow into their 20s and 30s, their economic stability becomes more constant. Alternatively, for Gen X (born 1965-1980) and the Boomers (born 1946-1964) who are preparing for retirement, are less likely to consume frivolous products such as trendy apparel.
In short, Nike basically was cool with losing a chunk of a core U.S. demographic in order to stand with Colin Kaepernick and his message. I respect that. They probably did this because they knew they weren't going to lose their main market in sales or awareness. This campaign has people of all demographics talking, especially millennials. They're eating it up, and, I believe, more likely to support the brand that aligns with their views.
"The best advertising campaigns deliver the right message to the right audience, at the right time.
Timing of a campaign is probably one of the most debated aspects of paid media management. Putting out your message to the correct people at the right time is imperative to a successful campaign. There are a few ways to do this. For my job, we discuss when to send out surveys, when to retarget our website visitors, and when to launch sales and promotions more than a lot of things. You want to make sure, first of all, that you will be reaching the correct people with the correct message. In Nike's case, their timing was superb, and I'm not exaggerating.
For one, the 2018 NFL season is set to begin this Thursday. Kaepernick is still considered a free agent and has not been drafted onto a team for the 2018-2019 season. Kaepernick also filed a lawsuit in October of 2017 accusing the NFL of collusion. Just last week, after a key ruling, it was decided that Kaepernick's case will be moving forward and may start trial as early as before the end of 2018. That's a huge slap in the face to the entire NFL brand, which has been taking hit after hit and PR nightmare after PR nightmare since 2016 (and even before that with all the concussion lawsuits that were finally settled last year) when Kaepernick decided to be extremely vocal about the reasons behind his nonviolent protest.
Finally, it's iconic because Nike was just re-upped a long-term 10 year deal that makes them the sole provider and creator of all of the uniforms for every NFL team. In March when the contract was signed, Brian Rolapp, the NFL's chief media and business officer stated, "Nike has been a long-time and trusted partner of NFL and we're thrilled to extend our relationship with them,". Lol.
Even if the NFL wanted to try and appeal to the demographic that is "boycotting" the sport over the anthem protests, they couldn't. How would the teams get their uniforms? It's honestly mind boggling to try and think about how long Nike has had this planned. They were oddly quiet about Kaepernick's protest in the beginning, even though they had signed his endorsement deal back in 2011. Which brings me to my final and challenging point; is this campaign just a way for Nike to seem "woke" and appeal to those of similar identity politics?
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Is Nike Exploiting Kaepernick for Brand Awareness?
As a white-passing woman, I understand that my opinion on this issue isn't important or necessary or even wanted. What's important is my support and using my privilege to help further the awareness of an issue that is so important and affects so many people every day. That is partially why I wanted to write this post. I am extremely interested in how other people are responding to this campaign and what they think about Nike using Kaepernick as their front-liner. Is it progressive? Is it exploitative? I would love to hear opinions either as comments or DMs on my Instagram!
Thank you for reading. This issue is so important and I believe there can never be bad publicity about an important cause that needs more awareness.