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Just Did It: The Calls for Boycott Won’t Hurt Nike

Despite the calls for a Nike boycott, the company featuring Colin Kaepernick in a new campaign isn’t likely to bring the brand to its knees.


The volcanic backlash boiled over quickly after Colin Kaepernick shared the picture, a black-and-white close-up of his face with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” At the feet of his point was the Nike swoosh, followed by its well-known truism: “Just do it.”



Kaepernick is a hugely controversial figure in the U.S., his antagonism built on his bent knee during the national anthem in protest of police shootings of Black Americans—a decision he alleges has gotten him blacklisted by NFL teams.

Critics, as they tend to do, have taken umbrage, calling Kaepernick’s protests disrespectful, and this campaign has enabled the hate in a number of angry people who have taken to social media to express their hurt feelings: cutting up Nike productsburning Nike sneakers, and even calling for a boycott of the company.



It’s arguably a risk for Nike to feature Kaepernick, as the company could alienate a large number of potential customers and, thus, the bottom line. But while a boycott might momentarily sting, it’s unlikely to hurt the brand on a greater scale.



Another interesting point is that your opinion on Kaepernick’s protest depends on where you sit along the lines of politics, race, and—importantly—age. Progressives and Black Americans generally side with Kaepernick, as do younger Americans. Those shoppers are key Nike customers, something the company must have considered when it opted to extend Kaepernick’s contract.

Despite the angry backlash on Twitter, much of the response to Nike’s campaign—seemingly the majority—has been positive. Bob Cook in Forbes stated, “Nike’s decision reflects that if it wants to keep its place among the most-beloved brands among the 18-to-29-year-old age group, it can’t be on the side of grumpy old white vice presidents walking out of NFL games on their boss’ orders to grandstand over players using the national anthem as an occasion to protest inequality and police shootings of unarmed black men.”

Conversely, Neil Saunders, the managing director of GlobalData Retail disclosed to CBS, “… although the company’s stand may go down well on its native West Coast, it will be far less welcome in many other locations.”

The truth of the matter is that not all shoppers will care enough to boycott; even if they were to, it’s a drop in a rather cavernous bucket. Nike, of course, is also a global brand; while the United States is the most important market, it makes up less than half of total sales, meaning most Nike customers probably don’t have strong feelings about Kaepernick either way.

Since the election of Donald Trump, Nike has planted a progressive flag. While propping up Kaepernick is a calculated risk, they’re unlikely to sacrifice anything meaningful moving forward.


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