Nike sales increase 31 percent after controversial Colin Kaepernick ad

Carly Steed, Managing Editor

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Last month, Nike released an advertising campaign featuring ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick. This ad campaign was met with conservative backlash, but both their sales and shares have increased as a result.

The ad featured a black and white photo of Kaepernick with the phrase “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The ad campaign also included Serena Williams and LeBron James, who had their own ads. Kaepernick first garnered attention when he began kneeling during the national anthem at football games two years ago to protest police brutality. Many viewed this action as a sign of disrespect to the country. The campaign outraged many conservatives, who disagreed with the company’s inclusion of such a controversial figure.

“Part of me thinks that Nike was being petty towards the NFL, and the other part of me believes they are truly taking a stance towards the issue at hand: police brutality,” senior Rehnesha Santos said.

The controversy soon spread to social media, where the hashtag #BoycottNike began circulating. Posts with the hashtag explained why people are no longer supporting Nike and also included videos of people burning their Nike gear. Due to the great number of these posts on social media, it seemed as if Nike was suffering. However, the shares reached an all-time high and their overall sales increased by 31 percent. Activists and Black Lives Matter supporters have been emboldened by the campaign, and are showing more support for the company than ever before.

“Everyone is a little sensitive at this point in time simply because so much is going on, so similar topics could cause outrage in the future just like they did now,” senior Landon Ailstock said.

This politically charged campaign is part of a recent trend of other corporations taking stances on controversial topics. In 2017, Pepsi released a commercial featuring Kendall Jenner that was accused of trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement. The ad faced the same criticism from liberal-leaning individuals that the recent Nike ad has faced from more conservative-leaning individuals. Another commercial, which was aired during the 2017 Super Bowl by Budweiser, featured a story of an immigrant pursuing the “American dream”; this too faced criticism and threats of boycotts on social media.

“I believe that people or organizations with a big platform have the right to utilize it by making a political statement [if they are] willing to face the consequences of it,” Santos said.

While Nike’s release of an advertising campaign featuring controversial former NFL player Colin Kaepernick seemingly sparked outrage from the public, their shares and sales have increased overall since the ad’s release, signaling the potential benefits to companies who become political advocates.

“I hope that Nike’s ad sort of teaches people to support causes that they affects them, and to stand up for what is morally right,” Ailstock said.