- Online sales for Nike grew 31% from Sunday through Tuesday over Labor Day weekend following the launch of a 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, according to an analysis from Edison Trends provided to Marketing Dive. The jump marked a 17% increase over the same time period in 2017.
- The sales spike came despite negative social media attention and threats of boycotts over "Dream Crazy," with some taking offense to Kaepernick's presence given his role in leading the NFL national anthem protests over police brutality. While critics were vocal, a survey by Ace Metrix found that just 13% of surveyed consumers were less likely to purchase from Nike after viewing the ad. The number fell to 10% for millennials and 6% for Gen Zers. Among "gen pop viewers," 56% said they were more likely to purchase from the brand. African-American consumers rated the ad's performance at 42% higher than advertising norms and found the ad more likeable and relevant than other groups, Ace Metrix found.
- Nike started airing the new Kaepernick spot during TV broadcasts of NFL games on Thursday. Pizza Hut, another pro football advertiser, last week debuted a commercial called "Lines" that similarly tackles inclusion and racial diversity, albiet with lighter messaging, according to Ad Age. The 30-second commercial, created with agency GSD&M, includes the message, "If we look beyond the lines, all that’s left is common ground," and shows fans of various ethnicities eating pizza and watching football together.
Nike took a big risk by tapping Kaepernick as pitchman for its latest campaign, as the NFL star has been a controversial figure since popularizing protests against police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem at games. The quarterback is also in the midst of suing the professional football league for collusion to keep him from playing due to his actions — a case that late last month gained more traction in his favor, and will proceed to a full hearing despite the NFL's disputes.
Nike clearly understands its audience and realized that taking such a strong stance, including by running the Kaepernick spot during the NFL season opener, would create an impact. Seeing a 31% sales boost and little damage to purchase intent shows that the positivity and likeability of the campaign's message was able to outshine any social media backlash.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that "Dream Crazy" was the most well-received by Gen Z and millennial audiences. These generations are more diverse and research has continually emphasized how socially conscious they are, frequently placing greater responsibility on brands to live up to their standards. Fifty-four percent of teenagers age 16-19 said they deliberately make their purchasing decisions based on a brand's ethics, according to a new study by MediaCom. The firm found that two-thirds of teens are more likely to purchase from brands that support causes or charities that are important to them.
Nike and now Pizza Hut are part of a growing list of brands embracing social messaging focused on diversity and inclusion to stay top-of-mind with consumers and get an edge on their competitors. Pizza Hut this season replaces Papa John's as the official pizza sponsor of the NFL. Papa John's relationship to the football league fell through after its founder and former CEO John Schnatter pinned poor performance at the chain on the anthem protests. Schantter has since had to step down from his executive role following racist comments, including use of the n-word, on a conference call in the spring.