Nike’s bet on Kaepernick is as polarizing as we thought but as successful as they’d imagined
Bottom Line: The 2018 NFL season started with a different version of a similar debate that was the hottest topic at the start of the 2016 NFL season. Colin Kaepernick. The big difference was of course Nike, rather than the NFL, making a controversial decision regarding, the now former, quarterback. At the onset I mentioned that while I personally have issues with Colin Kaepernick being held up as altruistic by Nike, after having depicted police officers as pigs, I thought Nike would be successful with the campaign. I, nor most people who seemed to be turned off by the campaign, are core customers of Nike, or those in the demo they’re targeting. Now we have research to back that up.
The first number that emerged earlier this week came from Edison Trends showing a 31% increase in Nike’s digital business in the first three days after the campaign was announced. The latest numbers come from the marketing research firm SSRS. On the question of whether we generally support or oppose Nike’s use of Kaepernick for their Just Do It campaign, most do oppose it. By a 41%-37% margin Americans are opposed to the campaign. On the surface that’d seem to be an issue for Nike. Spend hundreds of millions to turn off more people than not? But dig deeper and you’ll see that among their key demo – which accounts for 67% of Nike’s sales – 38% more people support the campaign than not. Among African-Americans the numbers are even more dramatic with 52% more supporting than opposing.
It’s highly likely that Nike was well aware of how this would play out before they took the plunge with Colin. A major company making the decision to commit to a highly polarizing person is a risk, but it also can be highly profitable. Just ask Rush Limbaugh and in this case Nike.