Colin Kaepernick, the former N.F.L. quarterback who inspired a player protest movement but who has been out of a job for more than a year, has signed a new, multiyear deal with Nike that makes him a face of the 30th anniversary of the sports apparel company’s “Just Do It” campaign, reports the New York Times (story here).
In a not-so-unexpected backlash, #NikeBoycott is already trending on Twitter and customers have started burning their sneakers (CNBC story here).
“But it’ll be worth it,” says Fortune 500 Chief Marketing Officer, Peter Horst, MBA, a Harvard & Dartmouth grad who led the marketing teams at Hershey, Capital One, General Mills, and is ranked on Forbes’ Top 50 Global CMO list.
“There’s an increasing need for brands to be relevant by taking a strong point of view in politics and in a market where competition is fierce and rivals are gathering strength, this campaign has made Nike more relevant than ever,” explains Peter, who is the author of the new book Marketing in the #FakeNews Era: New rules for a new reality of tribalism, activism and loss of trust (June 2018).
• Will The Backlash Be Worth It? “Leadership undoubtedly anticipated the predictable backlash that we’re already seeing: #BoycottNike, shoe burning, irate posts, drop in share price, but the fact that they made this decision anyway shows a powerful commitment to the long-term health of the brand.”
• Can Nike Win Over More Passionate Followers? “There’s no doubt that they will alienate some customers but I have no doubt that they’ll come out of this short-term pain a much more vibrant brand with an even more passionate customer base.”
• Will This Also Boost Colin’s Brand Too? “In many ways, this is the story of two brands. Both Kaepernick and Nike took a strong and controversial point of view. After suffering a great deal of pain, we’re now seeing a kind of resurgence of strength behind the Kaepernick brand—in many ways illustrated by Nike’s campaign featuring him.”
• Should Other Companies Take Political Stances? “The highly charged, polarized environment keeps raising the ante on brands and the need to put their values on display. In order to build powerful, authentic relationships with customers, brands will need to find their voice and decide where they’re willing to take risks and take a stand. The alternative is to become bland, irrelevant and uncompetitive.”