A Look Back At Nike’s Controversial 2018 Campaign
thanks to MarketingWeek
Nike stoked controversy when it revealed an ad starring NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Created byWieden+Kennedy, it featured the American footballer alongside the strapline: ‘Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything’.
Kaepernick has become a divisive figure in the US. As many people have supported as criticized his decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. His inclusion in the 30th anniversary campaign for Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ motto has similarly split opinion.
A survey of UK and US consumers conducted by Toluna for Marketing Week reflected this division. In the US, 31% of those questioned said they had heard “mostly” or “overwhelmingly” positive comments about the campaign, compared to the 45% that said they had heard negative responses. Some 33% said it had led to them viewing the brand more favorably, 30% less favorably and 37% that it had no impact. And on purchases, 28% said the campaign made it more likely they would buy from Nike, 26% less likely and 46% that it had no impact.
However, drilling down into those results suggests Nike’s targeting has worked. Those aged between 18 and 34, who are more left-wing and who come from the BAME community are more likely to be Nike customers, support NFL players ‘taking the knee’ and think brands should take a political stance. And they are more likely to say the comments they’ve heard about the campaign are positive, that the campaign has positively impacted their opinion of Nike and that they are now more likely to buy from the brand. Separate YouGov research reached similar conclusions.
Nike has stuck to its guns, with CEO Mark Parker telling analysts on a results call that the company is “very proud” of the campaign, which features “inspiring athletes” including tennis star Serena Williams, American footballers Odell Beckham Jr and Shaquem Griffin, and skateboarder Lacey Baker, as well as Kaepernick. He also claimed it has driven “record engagement” with the brand and a “real uptick” in traffic and engagement both socially and commercially.
“We’ve seen record engagement with the brand as part of the campaign,” he added. “Our brand strength is a key dimension that contributes to the ongoing momentum that we’re building across the Nike portfolio. That’s really how we look at it; it is how do we connect and engage in a way that’s relevant and inspiring to the consumers that we are here to serve?” SV