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Trending: Nike’s Colin Kaepernick Ad and Effects of Branding Social Activism

If you’ve been active on social media over the past week, turned on the TV or picked up a newspaper, it’s likely you didn’t have to look very long before stumbling upon Nike’s new ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. Not to mention, a wealth of supporters and angry fans alike in its wake.

Just days before the NFL season opener, Nike released their new “Just Do It” campaign with the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback as its face. What many people have seen circulating on social media is a black and white close-up photo of Kaepernick’s face, with a text overlay reading: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Considering the controversy surrounding Kaepernick, who first knelt during the national anthem two years ago, Nike took significant risks when rolling out this campaign. Known for featuring elite athletes such as Michael Jordan and Serena Williams, Nike instead chose an inactive athlete with a large social presence and cause. As a major turning point for the brand, Nike’s ad campaign is prime example of the effects of branding social activism – the risks and rewards of partnering with a controversial figure.

When a brand stands by a celebrity, an athlete or influential figure on a political or social issue, they’re essentially drawing a line in the sand and making their position on the issue known. Considering that social media feeds have recently been flooded with angry fans protesting the brand with videos of their Nike gear cut to shreds or doused in flames, many voiced their doubts about Nike’s decision.

However, with a brand giant as big as Nike, this decision was undoubtedly a carefully calculated one. The ad shows that Nike is very aware of who their customers are and the backlash it would evoke – but without the risk, there’s no reward. With this knowledge and the state of today’s social climate, Nike knew this campaign would also resonate with just as many people, if not more.

In fact, a quick Google search will show that since the campaign, the effects of branding social activism for Nike have been huge: record likes on social media, an all-time high in stock shares and backing by celebrities and big-name athletes are just a few. Not to mention, the brand’s online sales have absolutely soared – from Sunday through Tuesday over the Labor Day holiday, Edison Trends reports that Nike online sales grew 31 percent.

It’s no question that Nike’s ad campaign produced effects that will reverberate for years. But when a brand chooses to stand by a figure and their activism and does their research well, the effects can be astoundingly positive.


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