Nike’s controversial campaign sets internet on fire. But was it worth it?

Nike’s controversial campaign sets internet on fire. But was it worth it?

Nike’s controversial campaign sets internet on fire. But was it worth it?

Just 10 days on from Nike’s controversial ‘Dream Crazy’ advert honouring the 30th anniversary of their culturally engrained ‘Just Do It’ slogan, we investigate whether this ballsy ad was worth the risk.

To put it simply, yes it was. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing.

The reason behind the backlash started when Nike endorsed ex NFL quarterback turned public activist Colin Kaepernick to narrate and star in their advertisement. Kaepernick sparked controversy throughout America for being the first player to kneel during the U.S national anthem at the start of a game, protesting against racial injustice and police brutality.

To many Americans this has been taken as a cardinal sin and a sign of huge disrespect to a heavily patriotic country. However, Nike admitted that the campaign is specifically meant to speak to 15 to 17-year olds. This new audience, belonging to diverse ethnic communities and backgrounds, may have a different outlook on the political issue surrounding the advert compared to the more traditional views of older generations. Nike’s Vice President issued a statement saying the purpose of the campaign is to “energize its meaning and introduce ‘Just Do It’ to a new generation of athletes.”

Nike witnessed an initial decline in sales when the ad was first released, which saw President Trump jump on the band wagon and take to social media to voice his opinion about the campaign. According to Trump Nike’s “ratings had gone way down and were getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts.”

To some extent, this was true. Hashtags such as #justburnit and #boycottnike were created in the aftermath of the advertisement to voice people’s resentment of Nike supporting a man who protested against racial injustice and police brutality by simply kneeling during the national anthem.

Nevertheless, a report created by a top advertising research firm Edison Trends presented the stats to show that the new Nike campaign was good for business. According to the report, after the brief dip, Nike’s online sales grew by thirty one percent – considerably more than the seventeen percent increase during the same time period in 2017.

The ad didn’t just ignite a rise in sales and outrage on Twitter however. It has also proven to be a social playground for meme hungry media users that have seized their opportunity to latch onto this cultural milestone. The original black and white photograph of Kaepernick with the caption “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” has been constantly interchanged over the last week with celebrities, musicians, politicians and even television and film characters to create a vast library of hilarious alternatives to the original.

As funny as these memes are, there is a concern that Nike’s politically weighted message and decision to endorse Kaepernick may be slightly lost in translation to many audiences, who connect more with seeing a pop culture reference in the template of the advert.

However, the sportswear giant will hardly be complaining. As of yesterday, Nike’s stock price reached an all time high of $83.47 USD. On top of this they’ve amounted 25 million views on YouTube, 9 million views on Instagram and a total of 525k likes on Twitter and Linked In combined over the last week.

Today, brands such as Nike have to make a difficult decision. In order to uphold a contemporary position in the market, they must dip their toes into the pool of uncertainty, take risks and prepare to accept harsh criticism from consumers in order to succeed. By producing this courageous campaign Nike has done exactly that.

Check out how we partnered with global sportswear brand PUMA and publisher VERSUS to deliver a culturally rich campaign targeted at football-obsessed teens: click here

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