- Nike saw a surge in social media activity after the apparel brand made controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick one of the faces of its latest "Just Do It" campaign. Social mentions jumped 1,400% on Tuesday from the prior day to 2.7 million after Kaepernick posted an ad image of himself on Twitter with the hashtag #JustDoIt, according to a study by social media analysis firm Talkwalker shared with Mobile Marketer.
- Nike brand mentions overall have increased 135% from the prior week. The top social post was by tennis star Serena Williams, who tweeted, "Especially proud to be a part of the Nike family today." Her tweet received 178,000 engagements including likes and re-tweets during the study period, Talkwalker found.
- Not all the publicity was positive for Nike, though, as many people erupted on social media with calls to boycott Nike products — some with posts showing people destroying their Nike gear. Two years ago, Kaepernick refused to stand during the pre-game singing of the national anthem to protest police brutality against people of color. He was not signed in 2017 and has filed a grievance that accuses the NFL of collusion.
Nike scored a publicity coup with a risky campaign that includes Kaepernick just as the National Football League kicks off its regular season. As Talkwalker notes, the athletic apparel brand saw a surge in social media mentions after Kaepernick's tweet, and much of it was negative. Nike's stock price, which reflects investor sentiment about the company's future, fell 3.2% yesterday, the worst day in five months.
But that negative sentiment may be short-lived, with Oppenheimer analyst Brian Nagel saying the near-term backlash against the controversial ad featuring Kaepernick being overshadowed by the message of "Do the Right Thing" among the brand's roster of athletes, per MarketWatch. Kaepernick has been a Nike spokesperson since 2011, but hasn't been featured in the brand's ad in the past two years after he was catapulted into the spotlight.
Nike's edgy campaign comes at a time when the NFL is struggling to reinvigorate interest among young adults who are less likely to watch the NFL on TV than older generations. The median age of the NFL TV audience has crept upward since 2000 while viewership has declined dramatically in the past two years. The average audience for an NFL game fell 9.7% to 14.9 million viewers in 2017 from a year earlier, when viewership dropped 8%, according to CNBC. The national anthem controversy has been cited as a major reason for the drop in viewership, but the shift to mobile viewing, the wider variety of entertainment options and the declining participation in youth football because of health concerns also may have shrunk the audience.