Just Do It

Posted by on Sep 17, 2018 in ComLead, Integrated Marketing Communication

What is it exactly? To anyone who has been keeping up with the controversial debate over Nike’s recent Just Do It campaign featuring the voice and face of Colin Kaepernick, then what do you think it is?

From an advertising and marketing standpoint, Nike is referring to remaining faithful to what you believe in. To be a well-known brand is one thing, but to have a well-constructed brand image and set of values is a whole different story.

The pressure for brands to make campaigns that tie into social and political issues is stronger than ever. And whether or not these campaigns increase revenue is not always the end goal – what matters is that these campaigns reinforce the brand’s views and beliefs.

Airbnb aired their “We Accept” Super Bowl ad after President Trump’s decision to temporarily refuse the acceptance of refugees into the United States. The company had faced accusations of discrimination and in response released the campaign which featured faces of all different colors and backgrounds with words of acceptance in order to take their stand.

Many brands perform better when they display a core set of values that consumers can relate or respond to. And when those brands take stands on controversial topics such as the refugee crisis or the debates with the NFL, they are taking a major leap of faith. Further, if the branding strategy is executed correctly then they are establishing themselves at the center of a topic and the forefront of debate, which in many instances actually boosts their sales and promotion.

Chik-fil-A is a similar brand who has remained faithful to a specific set of values. As a Christian-owned company, they close on Sundays and have a history of public statements made against same-sex marriage equality. After facing controversy over their former president and now CEO’s intolerance to equality, they now steer fairly clear of touching on the subject and have not made many attempts to re-brand their image. By doing so they have stuck to their values and have received support for it, whether it be that their patrons agree or just like their chicken.

Nike is one of the biggest athletic brands in the world and their Just Do It campaign has consistently aimed to inspire athletes and beyond (their mission statement even explains that an athlete is simply anyone with a body). After Serena Williams was banned from wearing her “Black Panther catsuit” to the French Open, despite the suits design to help ease blood flow and prevent blood clots, Nike released a Just Do It ad featuring a home video of her training as a kid with her father. Nike chose Serena as the star of that ad not only because she is one of the greatest athletes of all time, but to show their solidarity with her as she was faced with opposition.

Nike has consistently proven itself as larger than just a distributor. They sponsor teams, produce equipment, and aim to inspire athletes of all ages, genders, and colors with their Just Do It campaign. Colin Kaepernick started a revolution when he became the first professional football player to kneel during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality and racial injustice. And while their choice in Kaepernick has sparked a lot of debate, it has also successfully gotten Nike in the center of attention and relevance. The campaign not only recruited  an entirely new round of patrons who were pleased with the decision, the alleged contract also includes a donation to Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights charity.

If the Nike brand itself is trying to push the idea to “believe in something”, then they did the right thing by deliberately choosing to believe in someone who kick-started one of the biggest protests in professional sports history. Nike has chosen to take a stand, or maybe a kneel, and show support for more than the game itself, but for the beliefs and values of the players as well.


Resources: How Nike Made a Statement and Became More Than Simply a Product or Sponsor

Devon Bradley, M.S. Communication & Leadership ’19

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