Shares of Nike Inc. fell by close to four percent just hours after Tuesday’s opening. According to Reuters, the drop was caused by Nike’s controversial new “Just Do It” ad campaign which centers around Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL player who sparked controversy two years ago by taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
The new ad, which features a black and white close up of Kaepernick with the caption “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” caused protestors to take to social media and call for a boycott on the famous athletic brand.
“Nike is not a stranger for backing sporting personalities who take views and act on them. Politicizing sport is likely to result in polarizing demographics,” said John Guy, an analyst at Mainfirst Bank in London during an interview with Reuters. “Freedom of speech is one of America’s core tenants, so placing this freedom within a sporting context for a brand as big as Nike will always make headlines,” he added.
Nike has waded into the discussions around social issues before. According to a report from Bloomberg, the company made headlines shortly after President Trump’s inauguration, launching a series of advertisements titled “Equality” which featured brand ambassadors such as fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad wearing a hijab and Chris Mosier, a transgender triathlete, among others.
While controversial, some experts believe Nike’s campaign to be more calculated than many might think at first glance. Love him or not, Kaepernick, who previously played for the 49ers, remains one of the country’s most popular athletes.
“The long-term relationship and a contract that benefits both parties over the next 10 years will likely outweigh any current controversy,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Chen Grazutis in a recent article.
The long-term impact of the new ad campaign is still undetermined, but their latest campaign certainly has people talking about the brand. According to Reuters, the hashtag #NikeBoycott has been posted on Twitter by more than 30,000 users, some of which uploaded pictures of themselves burning, destroying, or discarding their Nike apparel.
I will never buy a Nike product for as long as I live! #NikeBoycott
— BenJammin (@BennyMusicMan) September 4, 2018
Despite the fallout, some Twitter users voiced their support for Nike’s decision to use Kaepernick, while other users urged boycotters to donate their unwanted Nike items to homeless veterans.
— DL Hughley (@RealDLHughley) September 4, 2018
Others, who feel kneeling during the national anthem to be disrespectful to fallen servicemembers, advocated making Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal’s player turned U.S. Army Ranger killed in Afghanistan in 2004, would make a more appropriate ad campaign.
I normally keep politics off Twitter, but as a Marine, I felt I had to share this. @Nike , some punk kneeling for a false cause isn’t sacrificing anything. It isn’t heroic. It isn’t anything. Pat Tillman however, is someone your company should look more into. pic.twitter.com/N3umvuq6Xg
— Justin King (@kingjustin1996) September 4, 2018
Time will tell if Nike’s latest gamble will pay off; however, many experts believe the brand will recover from Tuesday’s dramatic loss, and that Nike’s core customers are unlikely to be swayed by the negative press.
“The alt-right calls for a Nike boycott will fail just like the boycott of Dick’s Sporting Goods failed,” said Matt Powell, a senior adviser with market research firm NPD Group, during an interview with Reuters. “Old angry white guys are not a core demographic for Nike.”