5 Things Brands Can Learn From Nike"s Colin Kaepernick Campaign

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Sports wear giant, Nike has been in the news following controversial the release of an ad campaign featuring controversial NFL star player, Colin Kaepernick. 

Kaepernick who started a resistance movement by kneeling during national anthems during NFL games doubles as the founder of the Know Your Rights Camp, a social consciousness and awareness campaign movement focused on higher education, self empowerment, and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement.

Nike's choice to pick a controversial Kaepernick to represent its #JustDoIt campaign is instructive and brands can draw at least 5 lessons from this.

What's the Word on the Street?


To begin with, as a brand it is important to examine what the "streets" are saying about your brand or product before even the start of a campaign. Do customers and prospects view your brand as being: empathic and connected with them and their passions; or isolated and distant? 

Important conversations can be started and sustained by your brand and around the values that matter to your core by your customers.

Let's now look at the lessons brands can take from Nike's Kaepernick Ad:

Lesson #1: Controversy Fuels Virality



We live in the era of viral content on social media. One tweet or video can get seen by millions around the world once it goes viral.

An interesting fact to recognize is that controversy can fuel virality. As humans, we tend to want to know about the inner details, opinion and perhaps secrets of others, especially those who are controversial.

A controversial personality or brand is very likely to have any content: tweet, picture, video, meme, press statement, etc go viral  very easily. A ready example will be the likes of controversial radio show host and conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, author of InfoWars.

Controversy surrounding Alex Jones and the news of him being banned from some social media sites helped to drive astronomical increase in downloads of the Infowards App. The same scenario played out with the Nike campaign with Kaepernick.

Lesson #2: Embody your Brand's Philosophy and Values


For anyone who is conversant with the Nike brand, one can tell that the company has used the opportunity created by the campaign and the controversy surrounding Kaepernick to express its brand philosophy.

The Nike brand over the years has been known for consistency, boldness, youthfulness and connection to communities. This campaign was another perfect hit that struck a chord with both white and colored communities not only in the US but across the globe.

News reports from the BBC say the Nike sales shot over 31% following the launch of the Kapernick Ad, despite backlash in some quarters.

Embody your brand's philosophy and values: in your communication, activities and brand expressions. Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of its infamous "Just Do It" slogan, Nike embodied its brand philosophy and values, and just "did it" with the Ad.

Lesson #3: Bad Publicity Can be Good for Marketing 


When a topic, personality, brand or group becomes controversial or gets enmeshed in some controversy, somehow, it begins to get more attention from the media.

Smart communicators know just how powerful and valuable publicity is, even when it is negative.
The old cliche says "all publicity is good publicity." 
Brands can take advantage of what could be seen or termed as negative publicity and utilize it as a powerful marketing force to its advantage.

Which is exactly what Nike has done in this scenario to rake in record sales following the launch of the Kapernick campaign.

Lesson #4: Influencer Marketing Can Make or Break your Brand 


Influencers do what they do for brands and products, which is influence - perception, attitude, behavior, and affinity.

A big question one would ask is, Why Kaepernick? Perhaps the reason could be his ability to start conversation especially around controversial issues; capacity to influence perception, attitude, behavior, and affinity; and then a strong community leadership.

It then becomes obvious that, a wrong choice of influencer can drive a brand or product through the roof or down the sh*t-hole. Kaepernick influenced Nike's brand and ultimately its sales right through the roof!

Lesson #5: People Identify With Communities, Causes and Cultures 


As a natural human instinct right from history, people have always been communal, and feel safer being a part of a community, group or village. 

Nothing unifies people more that when they know they are collectively focused on or working towards achieving the same goals or objectives.

When there are shared values, ideals, ideas, and endeavors, people commit passionately to them. It's the reason people can give up their lives for causes, movements, and even communities in protest or resistance.


The same loyalty and affinity can be seen when a brand identifies with a people, cause or community. Members of that group develop a certain brand affinity of which those members could give such brands loyalty and cult-like devotion.

What are your own thoughts and learnings from the Nike #JustDoIt Campaign featuring NFL star Colin Kaepernick?