Why Nike’s divisive advertising got it right
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Why Nike’s divisive advertising got it right

A year ago, Nike did the unthinkable: it waded into a massive and controversial debate over whether athletes should stand for the US National Anthem. This debate was fuelled by racial tension and political divide – a smart brand would stay out of it. Right? Wrong. 12 months on, Nike’s brand has appreciated by $6 billion, and its sales have risen by 31%. How did such a controversial Nike campaign, which kicked off with an ad featuring Colin Kaepernick that unabashedly supported his decision to kneel during the anthem, propel the brand higher?

In the last month alone, Nike’s share price has appreciated by more than 8%

Nike Sept 6

Source: Yahoo Finance

The answer is a very simple one – although it’s one that most businesses can’t (or won’t) take to heart: they gave consumers something very emotionally powerful that they could choose to love or hate. Advertising and branding are not suitable for bland, appeal to everyone, messages – you have to let people buy into your brand. And to do that, you have to give them the option to hate it with equal measure.

In the words of Nike founder Phil Knight: “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it. And as long as you have that attitude, you can’t be afraid of offending people. You can’t try and go down the middle of the road. You have to take a stand on something, which is ultimately I think why the Kaepernick ad worked.”

The past 12 months is proof enough that Nike, when it comes to marketing, knows how to “Just Do It”.

Learn more about the Colin Kaepernick ad’s reception in the video below:


Dominion holds Nike in its Global Trends Luxury Fund.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author at the date of publication and not necessarily those of Dominion Fund Management Limited. The content of this article is not intended as investment advice and will not be updated after publication. Images, video, quotations from literature and any such material which may be subject to copyright is reproduced in whole or in part in this article on the basis of Fair use as applied to news reporting and journalistic comment on events.