Colin Kaepernick, former NFL quarterback turned political activist, recently signed a deal with Nike – making him spokesman of its new advertising campaign featuring himself, along with several other athletes, showcasing how they have overcome challenges.
Some perceive the ad campaign as supporting Kaepernick’s choice to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality. A portion of Nike customers are outraged, thinking the protest was disrespectful to members of the armed forces, and that the campaign signifies Nike's endorsement of the act.
From ripping Nike logos off shorts to cutting the swoosh off socks and even destroying pairs of shoes, people are not holding back when it comes to their reactions about the Kaepernick commercial. Many have taken extreme measures to boycott the brand they know and love, although this does not seem to be putting a dent in Nike's sales.
After the advertisement was released, Nike’s sales rose around 31 percent during Labor Day week, according to Edison Trends. Customers seemingly lean more toward brands that are socially conscious in their advertisement and, because of the ad’s political tone, this trend persists. It's clear the negative publicity is working in Nike’s favor, which is not what protesting consumers want to hear.
Using social activism as a strategy to garner support and increase sales seems like a smart idea, but it could also quickly become a disaster. With the insurgence of social media in our everyday lives, we are constantly exposed to social issues and people’s immediate responses. Social issues have become avenues for companies to enhance their marketing and reach consumers, especially those in a younger, more involved demographic.
Although these social issues become controversies demanding our attention, we cannot turn a blind eye and forget what is at stake. Nike can not ignore its past human rights violations in its overseas sweatshops while simultaneously understanding and conveying what the national anthem protests are really about.
As young adults who value brands and what they stand for, it's imperative that we hold companies accountable. Corporations that have had their ethics challenged and critiqued should put in the extra effort to be ethically responsible.
The brands we consume are more than just their advertising campaigns, and college students are the perfect torchbearers for championing change for human rights and equality. As young adults and consumers, we are responsible for setting standards of what are acceptable corporate practices. If we want businesses to abide by socially conscious standards, we must be vocal in speaking out against what we deem unfair and unethical, and remember the real issues being presented in socially conscious marketing.