Nike Campaign Sparks Controversy

DIEGO SANDOVAL AND IAN COPE

Sports Edit/News Editor

“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” said NFL quarterback and social activist Colin Kaepernick in Nike’s new ad campaign. This new campaign was launched September 3rd in honor of their 30th year of their slogan “Just do it.”

In the days since these ads were released, the campaign has been steeped in controversy. Colin Kaepernick is the main face and voice of Nike’s campaign. In 2016, Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem to protest racism, police brutality and social injustice, and a handful of other players followed suit, kneeling, locking arms or raising their fists during the anthem. At the time, President Trump turned it into a political fight through a series of critical tweets and public statements about how the protesting players should be fired. In response to the campaign, fans were seen burning and dismembering their Nike products across the nation. Colleges such as the College of the Ozarks in Missouri and Truett McConnell in Georgia stopped using Nike products, and Nike stock fell 3% on the first day of the campaign. The ad campaign earned a response from America’s Commander-in-Chief: “What was Nike thinking?” said President Trump. The NFL as an organization sided with Mr. Trump.

“What Colin Kaepernick is protesting is vital to the discussion of who we are as a nation–has the government followed through on the promise of equal protection under the law?” said senior Christopher Eddy. “It’s a difficult topic that no one wants to talk about. Kaepernick is bringing that conversation to everyone’s attention.”

Support skyrocketed for the athletic clothing company. In the following two days after the falling of stocks, sales jumped up 31% nationwide. Nike now has publicly announced how they as a brand stand on these political issues. Nike’s base of young customers and fans signals that political stances could be seen as profitable ventures by some brands. “Nearly two-thirds of individuals who wear Nike in the United States are under 35 years old, and are much more racially diverse than the baby boomer population,” said Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst at the NPD Group, an organization of marketing analysts.

“I think Nike went into this absolutely knowing what they were doing, with the intention that some people would be offended,” Mr. Powell said. “But the people buying their products, whether they are a millennial or a Gen Z consumer, those consumers want their brands to take visible, social positions, and this is an opportunity for Nike to do just that.”

More than just the numbers and the political issues, the campaign represents a bunch of social positions and embraces social activism and justice. This struck home even with San Marcos students, “We live in America, a nation founded on basic human rights,” said senior Logan Ring. “Nike is supporting everyone’s voice and freedom of speech.”

Their campaign touched on both famous and inspiring athletes around the nation: it showed prominent African-American athletes LeBron James and Serena Williams, saying, “Don’t just be the best basketball player on the planet. Be bigger than basketball,” and “If you’re a girl from Compton, don’t just become a tennis player. Be the greatest athlete, ever.” Nike also shared inspiring stories of athletes most people have never heard of, touching on football players with one hand–“If you have only one hand, don’t just watch football. Play it. At the highest level.”–a female football player–“Don’t settle for homecoming queen or starting linebacker. Do both,” –an inspiring story of an IRONMAN triathlete–“Lose 120 pounds and become an IRONMAN–after beating a brain tumor,” and the story of an aesexual skateboarder–“Don’t believe you have to be like anybody to be somebody.”

This is a bold, inspiring move from Nike. Controversy has been raised, stocks fallen and risen, shoes burned, clothes torn, and stories shared–but in their words, when it comes down to it, “Don’t ask if your dreams are too crazy, ask if they’re crazy enough. It’s only crazy until you do it. Just do it.”

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