Dare To Take A Stand, And Be Prepared To Suffer The Consequences
Nike owned the news when it recently launched its 30th Anniversary “Just Do It” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick.
Nike did do it, including a controversial athlete as its spokesperson. And many said it was a moronic move.
Colin Kaepernick is very polarizing, but then again, America is a very polarized nation. 35–40% of Americans support Donald J. Trump and his unconventional approach to making America great again.
No matter what he does or says, they stand by their man.
Others view him as unpresidential, unprepared, unwilling to learn, purposely divisive, petty, narcissistic, and utterly lacking in empathy and compassion.
He surrounded himself “with the very best people” and it has resulted in a record number of resignations, firings, indictments, and convictions.
Trump acts like a strong arm thug, a tyrant. He believes the justice department works for him. He denies science and oversees the destruction of our regulatory apparatus. He villainizes the free press and presents alternate facts as facts. He portends to be a populist while granting corporate tax breaks that balloon the deficit $1.5 trillion (wait for the trickle down, people — just you WAIT!). He refuses to criticize hate groups. He belittles and antagonizes our allies, befriends our enemies and is an obsequious lapdog in their presence.
Are these actions making America great again?
Trump manages to make everything about him, and when he put Colin Kaepernick in his crosshairs, he struck the divisive gold to turbo-charged his 35–40% base.
He made Kaepernick’s taking a knee during the national anthem about the athlete being unpatriotic. Trump believes CK’s action was an insult to the American flag, the military, the bald eagle, and hot dog apple pie baked by mom.
This view was despite the fact Kaepernick had clearly stated his reason for kneeling was protesting the lack of justice in police interactions with black youths.
Support him or not, the quarterback was making a political statement. The right of every American.
But that didn’t matter, not when you can kick up dust for political showmanship.
Kaepernick became poison in the NFL. Granted, he was not a star QB, but he was better than or as good as 14 starting QBs.
But no team would have him; he was effectively sidelined by the president.
This battle became the juice that drove the Wieden & Kennedy copywriter to pen “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” that appears over a picture of CK’s face in the print and billboard executions of the Nike campaign.
Many marketing armchair quarterbacks said Nike was stupid. Why grab a political third rail and willingly alienate one-third of the country or more that believes in Trump?
Why? Because Nike believes in something, too. Being authentic.
Nike knows being authentic is smart for business, especially today when everyone worries about being politically correct and staying out of the fray.
But people respect authenticity, especially Gen Z. They can agree or disagree, but at least they know where you stand. For decades, Nike supported rising athletes with contracts and used them as spokespeople, which means inevitably tying the swoosh to whatever their actions are — controversial or not.
So when Nike decided to put the most controversial man in sports, one who is barred from playing in the NFL, front and center, it was a gutsy move. Especially considering Nike has a contract with the NFL until 2028.
Some people were outraged by the Kaepernick campaign and burned their Nike shoes. Others vowed they’d never buy anything with a swoosh ever again.
And I’m sure there were death threats called into Nike HQ.
All this Nike outrage made excellent fodder for the hungry 24-hour news cycle where Tweet chasers need something to mix it up a bit.
What were the repercussions suffered by Nike? Its stock price dipped initially, but when Nike reported sales were up after the campaign launched, stock prices rebounded nicely, and analysts raised their price projections.
The CK Nike campaign generated over $163 million in publicityand a monsoon of social media likes and positive buzz.
And, of course, a ton of animosity and hate. As you may have guessed, Trump was not a fan of the work.
Nike played the same game Trump plays — they preyed on emotion.
For Trump, it’s about generating fear. Stoking flames of victimhood.
He was the man behind many conspiracy theories: Muslims celebrating on 9–11 as the twin towers fell, Obama’s birth certificate, Obama tapping Trump Tower, Ted Cruz’s dad was involved with the JFK assassination, Joe Scarborough was involved in the death of one of his staff members, the Mueller witch hunt is out to get him,the deep state reporting falsehoods — you get the drift.
For Nike, it was about standing with an athlete willing to take a knee for what he believed. The Nike brand is built on athletes believing in themselves.
Nike knew the campaign would be controversial, and it was prepared to suffer the consequences.
And it did. All the way to the bank.
The lesson: you do not have to market to everyone, find your tribe and embrace them.
And if you like America under Trump, support him. If you don’t, vote in November against all who would enable him.
Just do it, being a passive citizen could cost you your freedoms.
Patrick Scullin (aka PD Scullin) was a founder of ASO Advertisingand recently left the ad game to write what he wants, wrangling parts of speech to entertain and amuse.
He has an upcoming novel, SAWDUST, and writes two blogs: The Lint Screen(satire, smartassery humor, pop culture ramblings, and advice for people getting hip replacements) and Empathetic Adman(marketing pontification).
Thanks for reading.
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