So, America, this was big news:
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
It appears to have resulted in a lot of white Americans who have probably never bought a pair of Nike trainers declaring that Nike have lost their custom. Some have taken to rather stupidly burning their shoes (rather than, say, giving them to charity).
So, what’s going on here?
Well, Colin Kaepernick has been attacked by so many people, but what for? For kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against black people. The stats are in, and he has lot to protest about. He has chosen to do so in a very visible way to garner the most impact. Most importantly, he has made his protest peacefully. In a time of rife violence, in a time of terrorism, in a time of guns, this is precisely the sort of protest that people have been demanding more of. The same people who attack him accuse “libtards” of being “snowflakes”.
Nike is a corporation, and a big one. Sure as hell, this is a calculated marketing move, but not without significant risk. I think it is bold. Perhaps, after the dust settles, they think they will be on the right side of history. I think they will be. This is a moral statement and I find it interesting when corporations make them because it doesn’t sit well – there is an element of cynicism in my thinking. But, on the other hand, corporations wield a lot of power and with that can come great responsibility, so when they do make bold moves with a moral dimension, it can be a real beacon of hope.
This was certainly calculated by point of fact that Kaepernick has been on their payroll ever since the whole issue first blew up. Nike have been biding their time, waiting for the right time.
If Nike get hit in their profit margin of $15bn, I’m sure they’ll survive. Stocks have already gone down considerably.
The reality is there isn’t a perfect time to care about the injustices that spurned Kaepernick’s movement in the first place. We should ask why a company hasn’t done anything for two years, only to announce this in a brash manner that doesn’t land with the afflicted. Radical protest cannot be repurposed for the sake of capitalism. Black people being murdered shouldn’t be a vague message behind Nike’s campaign. Ultimately, the brand is injecting itself into a national debate for praise and profit, rather than justice.
For Nike, this is an undoubted victory. Kaepernick’s jersey has consistently topped NFL merchandise sales, despite not having been on a roster for the past two seasons. Celebrities often publicly support Kaepernick’s causes, amplifying his reach. In fact, Kaepernick has already generated $43 million in media exposure for Nike since the announcement of the new campaign. And the timing is nothing short of fortuitous for the apparel empire, as the brand’s apparel deal with the NFL is cemented until 2028 as of March 2018. They are free to capitalize on Kaepernick’s movement while remaining sure their assets are safely guarded.
And while Nike will reportedly donate an unknown amount to Kaepernick’s “Know Your Rights Camp,” nothing else has been said regarding how the brand will support Kaepernick’s plight in tangible ways. Kaepernick has been on Nike’s roster of athletes since 2011, but the brand has never sided with his protest. Even now, they’ve said nothing of police brutality. Nothing of the wicked racism murdering black children in Cleveland, Texas, Pennsylvania or Missouri. Nothing of the admonished prison systems keeping men in chains, or the presidency that detailed several of their athletes with profanity or asked for them to be deported.
In less than 24 hours since Kaepernick first revealed the spot on Twitter, Nike received more than $43 million worth of media exposure, the vast majority of it neutral to positive, according to Apex Marketing Group. That far outweighs the risk of alienating some customers, said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing executive at Baker Street Advertising.
What’s more, he said, the move sends a strong signal to their current roster of athletes and positions Nike as a savvy risk-taker. “It’s not a move that any company can make, but for Nike it’s definitely smart business,” Dorfman said.
A Nike spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment. The company’s shares closed down 3.2 percent Tuesday, the biggest one-day drop since April. Shares in Nike’s top competitor, Adidas, also fell.
President Donald Trump, one of the most outspoken opponents of the players’ protests, told the Daily Caller on Tuesday that the ads send “a terrible message.”
“Nike is, at the same time, one of the world’s best product companies and one of the world’s best marketing companies,” said Simeon Siegel, a senior retail analyst at Nomura Instinet. “This has been their strength. They understand impressions, they understand brand image, perhaps as good, if not better, than anyone.”
The company also knows its customers. Two-thirds are younger than 35, and it’s an ethnically diverse consumer base, according to NPD Group.
“Nike cares most about the category influencers and tastemakers — nearly all of whom will embrace their decision,” said Howe Burch, the former head of U.S. marketing for Reebok. “They know they will lose some customers short-term but not the kind of customers that really drive their business.”
Supporting disruptive athletes has long been a part of Nike’s marketing, dating to the early 1970s and runner Steve Prefontaine, the company’s first athlete endorser. Last month, when the organizers of the French Open banned an outfit worn by long-time Nike athlete Serena Williams, the company tweeted “You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers.”
As part of the new campaign, the company plans to release a Kaepernick-inspired shoe and t-shirt and will donate money to the quarterback’s “Know Your Rights” educational campaign, according to the New York Times.
As I said on Twitter:
Because standing up for the principle of peaceful protest is irresponsible how? #justgrowup
— Jonathan MS Pearce (@ATipplingPhilo) September 4, 2018
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