Russ Klein, the CEO of AMA National, has written a piece called Nike and the Arrogance of Moral Certainty. He says that “social impact is not a strategy; it’s a responsibility. It’s a moral imperative, not a marketing plan.”
Our job as marketers is to clearly know who our customers are, understand what they value, and determine how we can deliver that value better than the competition. We are also charged with acquiring new customers, but more importantly – retaining them.
Nike’s decision to feature Colin Kaepernick in its current “Just Do It” 30th anniversary campaign demonstrates their willingness to roll-the-dice in a social environment where brands can quickly lose control of both content and consumers’ reaction to it.
Stockholders went bearish upon learning of the campaign, and then online sales spiked immediately afterwards in a sign of consumer support. It appears as though a tug-o-war has begun that could help Nike on the customer acquisition side of the equation, but may cause problems with retention.
On one side, the campaign aligns with younger Nike fans who expect brands that they do business with to be socially active – so Nike is positioning itself with this generation. On the other, it may alienate older Nike fans who view athletics as a way to escape from their daily problems and don’t want sports to be politicized.
Klein points out that, “the Kaepernick move was provocative. But what it did was divide Nike’s near-universal brand appeal into something smaller. This move took away a connection that millions want to make with a brand they once felt understood them. It turns out Nike no longer seeks to understand, it thinks it knows better.” Ouch!
In this campaign, Nike brilliantly shared stories of other famous athletes who Just Did It like Serena Williams, LeBron James and Shaquem Griffin, but on Kaepernick, the story isn’t as clearly defined. Klein continues saying, “declaring you’re for me or against me on an issue for which there are legitimate and differing perspectives is both ignorant and arrogant.”
Only time will tell if a brand that has brought people from all walks of life together for many years under the “Just Do It” mantra will succeed in their current social/marketing experiment, or if they will become party to an increasingly antagonistic world where people seem more interested in separating into different camps than getting along?
About the Blogger:
Gary Beemer, VP of Collegiate Relations for AMA Tampa Bay, is a former business owner, sales and marketing manager at Mars Incorporated, and currently an instructor of marketing at the University of Tampa.