Why Nike’s Controversial New Ad Fits with its Brand
Nike is a company that’s never been afraid to ruffle a few feathers.
From its “Winning Takes Care of Everything” ad featuring a once-embattled Tiger Woods, to its New York Times ad indirectly attacking an ignorant radio host, the company has always been willing to teeter on the edge of controversy in its marketing.
That was on display again last week with its new ad titled “Dream Crazy,” featuring former NFL quarterback and the man infamous for kneeling during the national anthem, Colin Kaepernick.
Befitting of Kaepernick’s refusal to succumb to the pressure of NFL owners and end his demonstrations, the ad’s most popular line reads, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
And as Nike likely expected, the ad stirred up controversy almost immediately upon its release. Not for its message about empowerment and resilience, but for its inclusion of one of the most polarizing athletes in modern times.
There are those that love the ad and Nike’s courage to include such a divisive role model in Kaepernick. And then there are those, like President Donald Trump, country singer John Rich, and others across the country, who vowed to boycott the company for using the former 49ers quarterback in its ad. Some even went so far as to burn their own Nike gear in protest.
Whether you love the ad, hate the ad, or are completely indifferent to it, early indications are that it’s been an overwhelming success.
According to research from Apex Marketing Group analytics, it’s estimated that the ad has already generated more than $65 million in positive publicity, $49 million in negative publicity, and $48 million in general publicity. That’s a total of $163 million. In just four days.
Obviously, Nike did their homework before deciding to work with Kaepernick on the ad (he’s been under contract with the company since 2011 but hadn’t been prominently featured until this week). They reasoned that the national conversation the it generates would outweigh any potential lost revenue from customer boycotts and presidential tweets.
So far, their risk seems to have been worth it.
Long Story Short: You don’t always need to sacrifice everything with your marketing, but sometimes it’s necessary to sacrifice something in order to stand out.