The Marketing Aftermath of Nike’s Controversial Ads

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First, let me be clear that this article has nothing to do with the politics surrounding the controversial Nike ads involving football quarterback Colin Kaepernick. But since there were obvious marketing risks to running the campaign, I was curious about the results. And while the long-term effects are yet to be seen, here’s what I learned about the immediate aftermath:

  • Sales grew 31% from Sunday through Tuesday over the Labor Day weekend this year compared with the previous year, according to statistics reported by Edison Trends.
  • A survey indicated that 24% of American’s now view the brand negatively. That’s up from 7% before the campaign’s launch. Many Nike customers, as well as President Trump, blasted the decision on social media. Some even filmed themselves destroying Nike products and vowing to boycott the company.
  • Nike stock took a 3% hit immediately after the campaign, but then recouped their losses. Shares were up 31% year-to-date, and there will be an earnings report at the end of the month.
  • The online tumult surrounding the campaign translated into $43 million in free media that’s still growing, according to Apex Marketing Group. There were 2.7 million mentions of Nike over the 24 hours prior to the launch, as noted by  social media analysis firm Talkwalker. That represented an increase of 135 percent over the previous week.

Why Nike May Have Decided to Just Do It

Generally, most of us are doing whatever we can to attract new customers. Yet Nike clearly decided to put some of its business at risk. Why?

Some analysts believe Nike thought there was more to be gained by locking in brand loyalists and not worry about the less committed. According to branding specialist Pia Silva and many supporting marketing studies, it takes longer to win customers who don’t identify with your brand. What’s more, it takes more work to make them happy and their churn rate is higher.

On the other hand, customers devoted to your brand like (maybe love) your products and tend to buy more and are usually happy with their purchases. They become your brand ambassadors. Nike likely chose to further identify and focus on this group. In fairness, an irreverent, rebellious attitude has always been part of the company’s brand identity.

Time will tell if their decision works over the longer term.

Whether you’re trying to stir the pot or work across the aisle, contact me for help with your corporate messaging. I’m an experienced marketer who can help you with any challenge.

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