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Brand Activism Case Study: Nike & Colin Kaepernick

In 2016 Colin Kaepernick, an NFL Quarterback for the San Francisco 49er’s sat during the National Anthem. This act sparked controversy nationwide and ultimately led to Kapernick being fired from the 49er’s and blackballed from the NFL. True story.

In 2018, Nike announced Colin Kaepernick as the new face of their “Just Do It” campaign. The viral “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” ad, received both criticism and praise from athletes to celebrities and everyone in between.

Nike took a HUGE risk by standing with Kapernick. The bigger risk would have been to not stand with him. Allow us to explain. This risk was taken after countless meetings and executives understanding the short-term loss versus the long-term benefits.

Some of Nike’s customers reacted by burning their Nikes, while others increased their average purchase price with Nike. Truth is, “Nike doesn’t care about the people who buy their Nikes at Ross. Nor should they. They care about the people who camp out in front of Footlocker to buy those $400 Jordans that are being released because those are their real customers,” said TaChelle Lawson, President of FIG Strategy & Consulting. Brands that put their customers first: win.

Nike released Colin Kaepernick’s jersey to mark four years since he first sat for the National Anthem. It sold out in less than a minute, and their sales have exceeded $6 billion since the first “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” ad aired. The point is, Nike understood the value of standing with Colin would resonate with their true customer and that is why the reward was much greater than the risk. We feel you, Nike.


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