Recently, I had the opportunity to lead a discussion on controversial campaigns and corporate reputation, focusing specifically on Nike’s new Just Do it ad “Dream Crazy” and the ad’s spokesperson, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. News of Kaepernick’s involvement in the campaign immediately went viral, with the ad garnering over 25 million views on YouTube in its first week. The announcement also increased Nike’s brand mentions on social media by 135 percent compared to the week before the campaign launch. After a small dip in the hours after the ad’s release, Nike’s stocks rebounded to an all-time high by Friday afternoon, according to a report from CBS News.
As PR professionals, it’s our job to interpret complicated communications issues and convert them into clear and concise recommendations for our clients. As such, I was interested to hear from my coworkers how they would have counseled Nike on this issue in two key areas:
- Would you have recommended that Nike release their ad featuring Kaepernick?
- What would you do to respond to critics and support Nike’s mission in the wake of the ad’s release?
The key focus of our group conversation quickly revolved around whether or not we believed Nike’s ad succeeded in successfully increasing their profile as a socially engaged company and how we could apply lessons from this campaign to our own client work. As a consumer-facing company, Nike’s primary goals are (or should be) to sell its products and increase market value for shareholders. Did the “Dream Crazy” ad succeed in increasing product sales? Were there actions Nike could have taken to make the message of their ad more impactful?
While it is still early too early to determine the long-term financial impact of the ad, Forbes reported that Nike’s online sales increased 31 percent in the first week of the ad’s release. Although we all agreed that Nike’s ad was effective, some team members felt as if the ad would have had more impact if it was supplemented by a deliverable action, like donating to an organization advancing policy related to racial inequality. We immediately jumped to the great example of Dick’s Sporting Goods, which stopped selling assault rifles in the wake of the Parkland high school shooting, and even went so far as to destroy the guns they removed from their shelves. Unlike Nike, Dick’s took an immediate, purposeful hit to their revenue stream to support a cause in which they felt invested. The market responded to Dick’s decision positively, with profits rising 3.2 percent and total sales up 4.6 percent, according to a May 2018 report from MarketWatch.
Did Nike’s campaign have the same impact? Are you more inclined to purchase Nike products as a result of the statement they made? What should the company have done differently or what should their communications team do to continue the drum beat on this issue? We’re continuing to keep a pulse on this topic and hope you’ll share your thoughts with us too!