By Francesca Gugino
On September 5, Nike released its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” advertisement. The campaign included photos of professional athletes Serena WIlliams, Shaquem Griffin, Odell Beckham Jr, Lacey Baker, Eliud Kipchoge, Lebron James and Colin Kaepernick. The Kaepernick ad read: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Kaepernick, former quarterback of the 49ers, took a stand against racism, police brutality and injustice by kneeling duing the national anthem during his 2016 season. His actions created tension as some found Kaepernick’s actions to be unpatriotic and disrespectful to those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The former NFL player’s actions led to other players following suit, causing NFL owners to formulate a rule prohibiting kneeling during the national anthem. The debate on kneeling, which was a taboo topic during fall of 2016, seemed to quiet down until Nike released this campaign, creating a new platform for discussion about the player’s actions, company’s intentions and the anticipated response of consumers.
The release of the Nike ad sparked debate on many social media platforms, especially Twitter and Facebook. Many argued that Nike had already signed Kaepernick years prior, and using him in a campaign for the “Just Do It” (JDI) slogan was not a political stance but rather was showing the values of the company and its commitment to social justice everywhere. More supportive arguments for Nike praised their commitment to activism and standing, or rather kneeling, to support what one believes in. While the other side of the argument, those who were disappointed and many even angry with Nike’s choice of Kaepernick for the ad, starting the hashtag #BOYCOTTNIKE. This resulted in the burning and destruction of many articles of clothing, shoes, bags and other accessories with the Nike symbol on them. Those who favored the ad, or those who disapproved of the destruction of clothing, urged consumers who no longer wanted to wear their Nike to donate it to those in need.
Aside from the controversial Kaepernick ad, the rest of the Nike campaign’s focus was celebrating diversity and the motto “Dream Crazy,” which is the title of the second film in the Nike “Just Do It” series. The goal of the JDI campaign was to spotlight the stories and experiences of professional athletes and their hard work, dedication to success and service to the betterment of society. The ads Nike produces, as well as the “Dream Crazy” video, show athletes who are from all different walks of life, advantaged, disadvantaged, young, old etc. working hard to achieve their goals and be successful in all that they do.
Eliud Kipchoge holds the time for the world’s fastest marathon, beating the existing record by 78 seconds. Serena Williams shows that women can be strong, successful, accomplished athletes no matter their background, while conveying that tennis is a sport for anyone willing to dedicate oneself to it. Lebron James exemplifies never forgetting one’s roots and always being dedicated to serve by donating to a school for at-risk kids in Akron, Ohio. Shaquem Griffin empowers those who have different abilities to know that they can succeed and be a professional athlete, or successful in whatever endeavor they choose to work at and pursue. Odell Beckham Jr. is an example for incredible work ethic, determination and commitment to the game and bettering oneself, while Lacey Baker is considered “The Rebel Queen” of skateboarding and stands with the LGBTQ community. All these athletes have worked incredibly hard and stood for what and who they believe in while pursuing their dreams and believing in themselves.
Despite the controversy surrounding Nike’s ad depicting Kaepernick, Nike’s online sales increased and the worth of one share in Nike stock currently sits at $85.55. The company’s sales increased by 31 percent after the release of the ad, earning Nike more revenue and proving that the marketing strategy and focus on social justice was beneficial to the company as a whole.