Watching the reaction to the recent Nike ad fronted by American football player Colin Kaepernick has been nothing short of fascinating.
If the main aim of the campaign was to get people talking about Nike, then it has definitely done its job (in the vein of “any publicity is good publicity”).
During the creative process for the ad, I’m sure there were many jittery moments – is it the right move? What if it backfires and causes harm to the Nike brand?
Some of the stories that followed after the release of the ad were as much expected as they were mystifying – many high-profile sportspersons as well as those in the public eye in politics and entertainment praised Nike’s stance. At the other end of the scale, hearing about people actively going out to purchase Nike merchandise in order to publicly burn the very same items must also have caused wry smiles at the Nike HQ in Oregon!
This reaction is reminiscent following the ‘More popular than Jesus’ remark made by John Lennon of The Beatles back in 1966 – whilst their record and concert ticket sales appeared to be unharmed, back then too, stories emerged of people bulk-purchasing Beatle records in order to take them to mass burnings – it seems that the extreme efforts of some in order to make a point have not diminished in over 50 years!
Cynics may argue that the whole point of the Kaepernick-fronted Nike ad was to create publicity in order to sell merchandise – the latter has certainly occurred - sales surged 31% following the unveiling of the ad (and some of this could be accounted to the purchasing that was mentioned about earlier!). But the campaign has cultural relevancy and started debates about the societies we live in, as well as those further afield.
Even President Trump was moved to comment on it. A number of times.
Nike’s boldness has to be applauded – after all, without Kaepernick fronting it, it really is just another Nike ad and would certainly not have taken up as many column inches as it has done.
So after those jittery moments, and even I’m sure with some expectation of negativity, Nike had confidence that the campaign would work in their favour, whichever way it was looked at. And that is the key thing – customer knowledge can enable businesses to move forward on particular action points, whether it’s the use of internal customer data, customer research that may have taken place or a combination of the two.
Because if you don’t know what your customers are thinking, what are you doing?