Just Do It campaign stirs up national controversy

By Aislinn Walsh
October 6, 2018

On Monday, Sept. 3, Nike became the center of national attention in regards to a new controversial campaign released in honor of 35th anniversary of the iconic Just Do It slogan.

The campaign focused on a partnership with five pro athletics, including former NFL player Colin Kaepernick.

In 2017, Kaepernick became a household name by blurring the lines between sports and politics. Some saw his actions as disrespecting the flag but also as a defiance of American principles. Others saw Kaepernick’s stance simply as a form of protest.

151024-N-TO519-160 by United States Naval Academy Photo Archive, on Flickr
Kaepernick signed with the 49ers during the 2017-2018 season. He has since left football. “151024-N-TO519-160” (Public Domain) by United States Naval Academy Photo Archive

Regardless, the situation remained a widely debated and controversial topic during the 2017-2018 football season.

After the campaign had been released, the initial response from consumers indicated that Nike had made a terrible mistake. Within a matter of hours, videos of people posting videos on social media of burning Nike shoes or destroying merchandise went viral.  At the same time, Nike’s stock dropped dramatically by 5.7 percent.

Within a week, Nike bounced back with incredible resilience. Their stocks reached a record high, sales skyrocketed and followers on social media increased by 170,000.

Fortunately for Nike, the bad media attention did not hurt the brand’s reputation.

“By burning the sneakers, all you are doing is bringing more attention to the brand,”  marketing professor Tangi James-Boone said.

Nike found campaign success by shaping advertisements to specifically target their consumers.

Nike by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, on Flickr
Nike took a gamble with their new campaign. It was very successful resulting in record high stocks and soaring sales.”Nike” (Public Domain) by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

“Nike’s target audience, core consumers, are younger people who are socially conscious,” advertising professor Jen Gatta said. “What the [campaign] does is speak to the core audience, lets them know that Nike understands them and the issues that matter to them.”

Nike was quite successful in this endeavor. A recent survey conducted by Quinnipiac University in light of the controversy found that 67 percent of voters between the ages of 18-35 were in support of sponsorship.

Those who expressed disdain for Nike were typically not in the target audience. Their reaction to the controversy didn’t impact the company.

“Nike knows it’s core audience- most are 34 and under,” integrated marketing professor Kimberly Beck said.  “The people who are very opposed to Nike’s use of Kaepernick are 65 and older, where Nike is not trying to reach them.”

Despite Kaepernick’s involvement with Nike, students will continue to purchase from Nike. 

When Nelson Marin, junior graphic design major, was asked if the controversy would determine future purchasing decisions.  He responded, “No, it will not affect me.”

Christian Jones, sophomore political science major expressed similar thoughts. 

“I don’t necessarily agree with Kaepernick’s actions,” he said. “But I agree with his freedom of speech.  I will continue to buy from Nike.” 

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Aislinn Walsh

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