Controversy Stirs Backlash But Also Profit For Nike

On September 5th 2018, Nike released their 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign, which featured many athletes that were breaking boundaries in their respective fields. The advertisement featured famous names like Nyjah Houston, Lebron James, Alex Morgan and Colin Kaepernick. The ad came out to strong criticism from both sides, as most people were shocked that a huge company like Nike would support Kaepernick’s message.

Most companies at Nike’s level usually remain neutral on matters like these. On the day the ad was released, people flooded social media. Some were praising Nike for taking the risk, while others went as far as burning their Nike gear and cutting the “swoosh” logo off of their clothes in protest. Many stock traders even started calling this the beginning of Nike’s downfall.

Nike isn’t the first major company that has dabbled with controversial advertisements. Pepsi, Carl Jr, Dove and American Apparel, among many others, have faced a fair share of criticism and backlash for their controversial advertisements. So how is this advertisement affecting people’s perception of Nike as a brand? Well, to better understand that, we first have to see who Nike was targeting in the ad. When it comes to advertising, the most important thing is to make sure to hit the target audience the products are being marketed to.

In their campaign, Nike seems to be targeting women, people with disabilities, minorities and an overall a younger audience. From Isaiah Bird and Zeina Nassar, to Alicia Woollcott and Alphonso Davies, Nike was aiming the ad at a very specific category of people. In 2018, when most of the younger generation are more socially conscious than ever because of social media, Nike perhaps was enticed to release an advertisement with this kind of message, in the hopes of attracting consumers from all types of different backgrounds.

On campus, some students agree with Nike’s stance, yet worry their tactics are going to backfire in other parts of the country. Only recently did major companies realize there are much bigger consumer platforms that they have to cater to, and what Nike is doing is a big step in the right direction, but doing it without some sort of criticism is impossible.

Nike approached Kaepernick at the height of his controversy, when most of the nation’s eyes are still on him. NBC News reported that after the commercial, Nike saw a 31 percent online sales increase, more than double the sales of last year at the same time. It seems that Nike’s risk is paying off for now, but how this is going to affect the company in the upcoming months is still unknown.

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