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Nike PR campaign courts controversy

They say all publicity is good publicity, but what if your PR campaign has the potential to alienate your customers?

Sportswear giant Nike has been testing this theory recently, by choosing American footballer Colin Kaepernick to front its latest advert.

Kaepernick, for those of you not versed in American football and/or patriotism, has divided the US over the past year with his refusal to stand for the National Anthem, as a response to police brutality against the black community.

A former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, the sportsman is currently without a team, giving rise to Nike’s billboard: a close-up of Kaerpernick’s face with the slogan ‘Believe in something: Even if it means sacrificing everything.’

Powerful stuff, but it led to widespread fury among many Americans, who threatened to boycott the brand over its endorsement of a man they viewed as disrespectful and unpatriotic – a cardinal sin in the US.

Social media was soon flooded with images of disgruntled Americans burning their Nike socks in rage, and even President Trump waded into the row.

It’s hard to believe that a company such as Nike, with a clear brand and understanding of the market, didn’t see this coming – so was it worth it?

Well, it would appear so – Nike’s shares hit a record high of $83.90 following the ad’s release, and the company has firmly nailed its colours to the mast regarding where it stands on the issue.

The threatened boycott was somewhat of a damp squib – there were plenty of furious Tweeters ripping up their socks and burning their trainers, but since they’d already paid for them, it didn’t quite have the desired effect.

And despite the public anger, the figures proved that in reality, most Americans agreed with Nike – research showed that 44% of people aged 18-34 supported Nike’s decision to use Kaepernick, compared to 32% against, and in the 35-44 age bracket, 52% supported the decision, compared with 37% who didn’t.

Let’s face it, the world (including the US President) is talking about Nike again – which is exactly what a good campaign should do.


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