- Nike experienced a nearly 17% increase in foot traffic at 242 stores during the week after Labor Day, Sept. 4-10, compared to the same period in 2017, according to a new analysis from Foursquare written up in Yahoo Finance. The spike came around the release of the retailer's 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign, which featured an ad starring the NFL player and activist Colin Kaepernick.
- Foursquare's analysis also revealed that foot traffic increased 27.3% in blue counties versus 8.5% in red counties. Foursquare defines red and blue counties based on which 2016 presidential candidate received at least 55% of the votes during that election.
- Yahoo Finance noted that foot traffic doesn't inherently mean Nike saw an uptick in sales. However, Foursquare executives reinforced that the campaign was overall a win for the brand. "You might expect the red counties would be down but they were also up," Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck told Yahoo Finance. "All of the earned media and all that debate, actually worked ultimately in Nike's favor."
Nike took a big risk by putting Kaepernick at the center of its latest marketing campaign, but third-party analyses continue to call the decision as a success in terms of driving positive social media chatter and sales for the brand. Kaepernick is viewed as a controversial figure due to helping lead protests against police brutality during the national anthem at games, and many consumers claimed they would boycott Nike after the campaign rolled out.
However, a recent Edison Trends analysis found Nike saw an online sales boost of 31% from Sunday through Tuesday over Labor Day weekend following the campaign launch, a 17% increase over the same period in 2017. Foursquare's new report suggests that physical retail experienced a similar uptick during that week in September, though it's tough to directly link awareness about the "Dream Crazy" ad to store visits.
On a recent call discussing fiscal Q1 2019 earnings with analysts, company executives also expressed their support of the campaign despite its divisive qualities. Nike CEO Mark Parker said there had been "record engagement with the brand" as a result of the effort, and added that its message had "connected with people around the world."
The campaign resonated most with young consumer segments, including cause-driven Gen Z and millennials, along with African-Americans, Ace Metrix found in a survey. However, the appeal of the creative extended even into red states, per Foursquare, though many conservative groups reacted negatively to the ad.
U.S. voters approved of the Kaepernick ad by a 49% to 37% margin, according to a Quinnipiac University survey. Among voters age 18-34, 67% approved of the campaign, and 67% said NFL players have the right to protest by kneeling during the national anthem.
The overall solid performance underpins how consumers are growing to expect brands like Nike to take public stances on social and political issues. Nearly two-thirds, or 64%, of surveyed consumers will purchase from — or boycott — a brand because of its position on a given issue, a 13-point increase over last year, according to the recently-released 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study. Edelman also found that many consumers are more likely to respond to "values-led communications" from brands compared to product-focused messages.