To celebrate their “Just Do It” campaign’s 30th year anniversary, earlier this month, Nike dropped one of the most controversial advertising campaigns of recent memory. Their #justdoit ad starring former NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, with the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”, has ended up adding $6 billion to Nike’s overall market value.
Kaepernick was outed by NFL in 2016 for kneeling during the National Anthem to protest against police brutality and minority mistreatment, and is currently suing the NFL. The ad which was launched during the kickoff week of NFL football season, received an initial social media backlash and a drop in stock prices.
We think the ad is bold, inspirational, and totally on brand with Nike. Most importantly, it’s highly relevant to our times.
While some may have burned their Nike gear and vowed never to buy anything with the famous swoosh again, others praised Nike for the bold move. Sales for the 18th most valued brand in the world (according to Interbrand) surged 31% after the ad launch and their stock share price is the highest it has ever been.
Did Nike know what they were doing when they decided to have a controversial figure like Kaepernick be the face of their brand? You bet they did. It was a risky move, but a very calculated one, indeed.
Why Did They Just Do It?
Nike knew their target market and was willing to let go of some baby boomers for the strengthened support and long-term loyalty of their customer base. Nike was more concerned about standing for a social cause that mattered to the future generations for the next 50 years, rather than turning a blind eye for the sake of playing it safe and pleasing everyone.
How did Nike pull this off?
The first rule in risky marketing is: Do your homework. Nike did their research for sure. Their strategy included but was not limited to the following:
1. They Knew Their Target Audience
In a nutshell, Nike knew who they cater to and what their target market cares about, so the company decided to make a bold statement through an ad campaign that reflected this – a statement that supports the beliefs and values of its most valued customer base.
2. They Knew Who They Were
Not all brands can afford to do what Nike was able to pull off. That’s because Nike knew their position in the market and what they represented. Their commitment to their values solidified their status as a brand.
3. They Tapped into People’s Emotions
One of the most important elements in marketing is forming emotional connections. The most successful brands are seen as living, breathing entities, not simply products or services. People enjoy buying items that represent and reflect the causes that matter to them. By taking a bold and unfaltering stand on a relevant social issue like social injustice, Nike’s ads are flawlessly executed as “stories” with deep and meaningful plots to evoke emotion in people, no matter how they feel about the issue.
4. They Were Authentic
Generation Z is all about being authentic. By standing up for a social cause that matter to so many future generations, Nike essentially said, “This is who we are and where we need to go, and we’re willing to stake our brand,” and that’s the best customer service they can offer because they are selling an authentic feeling and a world view.
5. They Chose Customer’s Interest (Beliefs) vs. Brand’s Interest (Money)
Nike knew dropping an ad campaign like this would be a huge risk and may make them lose money, but they chose to take a stand for their customer’s beliefs which earned them their brand loyalty, trust and respect, all values that are priceless in marketing.
In the end, it all comes down to “doing something you believe in.” Nike believed in something and just did it.
By Tabasum Lutfi, Chief Editor and COO at TriVision