I've yet to meet someone that hasn’t experienced goosebumps whilst watching the new Nike Dream Crazy ad, but perhaps it’s because they’re all British? It’s clear that this ad is as controversial as it is inspiring and moving.
As Nike marked the 30th anniversary of 'Just Do It', they chose Colin Kaepernick, an athlete who has been kicked out of the NFL for ‘believing in something’, as the face of their latest campaign. If you haven’t watched it already, check it out below.
The reason the campaign has caused much controversy is because Colin Kaepernick started to kneel during the national anthem of NFL games, in protest of bigotry and racial injustice in the US. For 49% of the American population (according to a CNN poll
) this was seen as very disrespectful. So, having someone like Kaepernick as the face for a global campaign for one of the biggest brands in the world is obviously going to cause a stir.
But the campaign empowers people from all backgrounds and races - more importantly, it empowers the underdogs. If you’re a refugee but want to play football. If you’re an amputee but want to be a wrestler or play in the NFL. If you’re overweight and want to be an Ironman. Nike is saying that it’s all possible, you just have to believe it - and wow, that’s inspiring to anyone, even if you take Kaepernick out of the picture.
Nike has been very savvy, in the sense that they have targeted the younger and 'progressive' consumer. Market research firm NPD Group has noted that over 60% of Nike consumers are under the age of 35,
with a recent CNN poll stating 60% of this demographic agree that players kneeling for the flag in protest are “doing the right thing”. So why would this demographic not back the campaign? The very purpose of all business is to create and maintain customers through innovative marketing practices. This is exactly what they’ve created; a generation of loyal customers, who believe in changing the world and enhancing diversity. Bearing in mind this generation is the future, as the majority of them are under the age of 35... Clever right?
Nevertheless, many critics think Nike are piggybacking off of what Kaepernick stood for (and if they are, they’re doing it very well). Still, you can’t put someone who almost half of the American population disagrees with on the front of a global campaign and expect people not to react by... well… burning their products (which they’ve already bought by the way). I’d argue that dividing a nation enough to make this happen is quite brave, and arguably a sacrifice, and I think that just shows how much Nike know their own brand. Nevertheless, calls for boycotting Nike are still being made, and this could affect them in the future, with some critics saying the recent 31% increase of online sales, and the generation of $42million earned media was a short-term result to a long-term decline.
The core message of this campaign is so pure and inspiring, it’s hard as a non-American not to love it. Nike are saying ‘do what you believe is right, even if people think you’re wrong’. And in doing so they’ve raised awareness of the social issues of racial inequality and bigotry on a global scale - bloody genius. Take Kaepernick out of the picture, would it still be a great campaign? Yes, but would people be talking about the social issues in as much depth? Arguably, no. Whether they are piggybacking, it’s still a brilliant campaign.
Sam Winward is consultant at Gemini People.