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Is There A Marketing Lesson From Nike’s Kaepernick Campaign?

You must have seen it by now.

The Nike advert. The one starring former NFL player, Colin Kaepernick, and the one causing a huge amount of controversy.

It’s the familiar irony of a brand getting huge publicity and generating numerous headlines because of its detractors.

If you haven’t yet come across it, for a little background, Colin Kaepernick is the American football quarterback who divided the country when he knelt during the United States National Anthem at a game, in protest at racial inequality and police brutality. He was silently protesting the disproportionate number of black Americans killed by US police.

That was back in 2016. Many Americans took offence at his actions, berating him and accusing him of disrespecting the American flag, and those who have fought for the country.

Fast forward two years and Nike have now appointed Kaepernick the face of their new advertising campaign, a move which again, has proven hugely divisive.

There has been a giant backlash against the brand in the States with people burning their Nike trainers and the hashtag #justburnit doing the rounds on social media as a play on Nike’s own #justdoit tagline. There are also reports that Nike’s share price fell just over 3% in response to the campaign.

Even Donald Trump has waded in on Twitter and is reported to have said the campaign is “a terrible message.”

Yet a Bloomberg report states that Nike has so far generated over $43 million in media publicity from the campaign so whether one likes it or not, this potentially risky move, might not be quite so financially damaging.

Whether you believe their campaign is foolish or courageous, let’s actually admit that the advert, voiced by Kaepernick, is quite brilliant in a stirring, evocative kind of way. From disabled athletes to Serena Williams, the ad moves all of us to aspire to greatness.

Published just yesterday, the Nike ad has amassed over 7.5 million views on YouTube.

This is a brand who know who they are targeting, who know who they want as an ideal customer and who aren’t afraid to attract them at the risk of alienating others.

Nike are pinning their flag to the mast. They are coming out and standing for something, demonstrating a social agenda and appealing to a more liberal millennial fanbase.

It’s a controversial decision but one which follows several other brands who have turned political in their advertising. It seems to be en vogue to inject a political and social slant to marketing these days, in a bid to win over a younger audience with a sense of freedom, equality and justice.

This is a lesson in not trying to please everyone, in targeting the people you want to serve and not being afraid of the consequences of standing up for what you believe in.

If nothing else, as a small business, their strapline should speak to us all:

Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy, ask if they’re crazy enough.

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