Nike has proven that despite the controversy surrounding former NFL player, Colin Kaepernick, taking a stand (even if it is an implicitly political one) can sell big.

Nike Lessons for Marketers and Corporations

Tips for following Nike and avoiding the Pepsi marketing failure with Kendall Jenner.

You could not have had two more striking contrasts between the two commercials.  With Colin Kaepernick, in the era of polarized politics in the United States, the choice by Nike to use the controversial NFL player stirred a lot of debate on whether this would alienate and lose Nike sales.  However, the press and social media buzz resulted in an estimated $165 million USD spike in Nike sales with the ad appropriately timed around the Labor Day weekend when students would be returning to school.  Nike does not make its marketing decisions by chance, so they must have done a thorough analysis of how a Colin Kaepernick ad would play out in Red States (conservative) and elsewhere.  Even with alienating conservatives, it proved that Nike did the right thing in using Kaepernick in its marketing.  The difference with Pepsi’s use of Kendall Jenner in its ad that tried to throw in overtones of the Black Lives Matter movement is the crassness and overt commercial nature of the ad.  The stark contrast with Nike’s use of Kaepernick is to make not only a political statement but to also imbue that statement with Nike’s core brand values about striving for greatness in athletics, individualism, and standing out among the crowd. 

Corporations have to keep in mind when they launch an ad how they marry the brand values with the representative or spokesman they choose, and also ensure they properly utilize that branding with the zeitgeist of the moment. Nike’s timing and use of Kaepernick capitalized not only on the political upheaval and undercurrent of US politics, but it also married this to Nike’s core brand values.  The customer connection to the ads on an emotional level is meant to be more authentic.  We never see Kaepernick throw a football or do anything athletic in the video. His voice and narration are merely a symbolic representation of the greater aspirations of the Nike brand.  I call this a marketing success that gets an A+. 

You can view the Nike video here at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-grjIUWKoBA

You can view the Pepsi video here at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA5Yq1DLSmQ