OREGON: Nike’s ad featuring Colin Kaepernick has been a talking point this past week, but the commercial effects are unclear, with one survey reporting brand metrics have dipped in the US, while another source says online sales have surged ahead.

Last Monday, Colin Kaepernick released an image on Twitter along with the caption “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”. The next day, the full ad dropped on the former San Francisco 49ers feed, a two-minute spot culminating in the caption. Both are components of Nike’s 30th anniversary of its Just Do It tagline.

Many outlets suspected that the social media backlash would be representative of a hard core of anti-Kaepernick fanatics, and considered Nike’s extension of its sponsorship deal with the player – extant since 2011 – a brave move. However, a Morning Consult report suggested that consumer opinion has shifted rapidly since the announcement
The US study, based on 1,694 pre-campaign interviews (late August) and 5,481 post-campaign interviews, showed Nike’s net favorability dropping across the board. Predictably, Republican respondents showed a huge drop in favorability, as did Boomers.

However, more surprisingly, the brand appeared to have lost favorability with all adults, dropping from 69 points to 35 after the campaign. Among Nike customers, Democrats, Gen-Z and Gen-Y, the brand’s favorability also dropped. The study also suggested that purchase consideration is down. 

But data from Edison Trends, a digital commerce research company, indicates that there are no simple answers in this situation. Marketwatch reported Edison figures showing that Nike’s online sales had grown 31% from the Sunday of Labor Day weekend through to last Tuesday, compared with a 17% rise in the same period of 2017.

As some commentators have mentioned, the effects of Nike’s move alongside Kaepernick are necessarily long-term. A big-ticket campaign with political implications for an ongoing debate is not chasing short-term sales, especially when the protest is being called ‘divisive’.

Though the campaign targets a uniquely American political issue, it’s worth thinking about the effect for the brand across the world. According to Statista, in recent years Nike’s revenue outside of North America has outgrown its domestic market. To non-American observers, the debate is quite difficult to grasp: a protest about racial injustice has an incredibly tenuous link to the treatment of veterans. The effects of the campaign around the world may paint a different picture.

Ultimately, the effect of this campaign cannot be known in the same week as the ads launched. Longer-term effects will show whether Nike became involved in a political situation to which it has a claim to belong.

In an earlier study, released this summer, Morning Consult figures found that even among millennial audiences political considerations are not as important as quality, customer service, and value. “Factors like ethical standards or transparency are important to some, but don’t rank atop the most significant contributing factors,” the report said.

Sourced from Morning Consult, Twitter, Statista; additional content by WARC staff