While the controversy over Nike’s new ad campaign featuring former quarterback and original anthem kneeler Colin Kaepernick continues, recent sales figures indicate the campaign so far has been a success.
The sportswear company recently announced that Colin Kaepernick — the former 49ers quarterback who became a household name for his kneeling protests during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games — would be the face of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign.
In the initial advertisement, an up-close picture of Kaepernick’s face is shown with this text written over it: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
When asked a couple of years ago about his anthem protests, Kaepernick had told the media, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The criticism of Kaepernick’s protests was strong and loud — and most polls showed the majority of Americans disapproved of what he was doing.
In addition to those who believed that kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” was disrespectful, others pointed out that Kaepernick had worn socks depicting police officers as pigs. He’d also worn a shirt with the image of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro on it.
The protests grew beyond that 49s team, of course — as players on many different teams and athletes in other leagues joined in as time passed. Eventually, the NFL stepped in and said players could not kneel during the anthem; they were, however, allowed to remain behind in the locker rooms instead if they wanted.
Given that background, Nike’s ad campaign seemed ill-advised at best, especially since the company had just signed an endorsement deal with the NFL — which Kaepernick is currently suing over allegations he was blacklisted for his protests.
(Kaepernick became a free agent after the 2016 season and still has not been picked up by another team.)
Many people had thought the widespread criticism of the campaign from President Donald Trump — and also from pundits, and police and military organizations — would hurt sales. Trump, who has been a vocal critic of Kaepernick, said the ad campaign is sending a “terrible message.”
There was some support for the move, particularly from left-leaning sources, but it appeared certain to end poorly. There was, in fact, a 3 percent drop in Nike stock after the announcement, likely over that expectation.
The company itself has said that “there was speculation that the Nike/Kaepernick campaign would lead to a drop in sales.”
However, amid continuing calls for boycotts and amid the videos of consumers burning their Nike shoes, Nike’s online sales numbers have increased by 31 percent since the campaign was released. A report from Edison Trends noted that some increase would be expected due to sales over the Labor Day weekend, as Market Watch pointed out — but this year’s increase is nearly twice that seen last year over the same period.
Nike’s online sales numbers have increased by 31 percent since the campaign was released.
But online sales numbers, at least, don’t seem to have suffered. Time will tell whether the figures hold true for brick-and-mortar stores — and as Americans soon prepare for the Christmas and winter holidays ahead.
Meanwhile, Nike has its fans, its detractors — and sometimes those who fall somewhere in between.
Golf star Tiger Woods this weekend, speaking from the BMW Championship outside Philadelphia, said, “I think Nike is trying to get out ahead of it and trying to do something special, and I think they’ve done that … It’s a beautiful spot and pretty powerful people in the spot,” as USA Today reported.
And a fan — sort of — almost posted this message online: “I am rooting for Nike on this one … Nike does have to make up some ground, but it is a pleasure to see them FINALLY get behind the cause. Now all they must do is to take care of their abuse against women, employees overseas, and neglectful tone about the violence over sneakers in years past.”
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