Nike: PR Success of Epic Fumble?

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

According to a Buffalo State public relations course, there are 6 characteristics of a Goal Statement in any effective public relations campaign. Goals can be:

1.      Rooted in organization’s mission and vision of success

2.      General and non-specific

3.      Non-measured

4.      Challenging

5.      Attainable

6.      Acceptable to management and client

Nike’s recent endorsement of NFL player Colin Kaepernick for their 30th “Just Do It” anniversary is seeing a wide-range of emotions – some consumers are literally burning their Nike products demonstrating what could be the greatest fumble in Nike’s history. Clearly, the goal of this advertising blitz is causing quite the debate.

Whether you are in support or not, this article is aimed to help you understand WHY campaigns like this could grow or destroy your business.

Ads like this are calculated and well thought out by Nike’s advertising partner - the world’s top advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy. Make no mistake, firms like this are armed with data, multi-cultural insights, and the knowledge of Wall Street’s expectations as any campaign this controversial can make or break shareholder value – the #1 concern of publicly traded CEOs. If you’re a small to medium-sized business that relies on the majority of your customer base to pay your bills, think twice before doing an ad like this without fully understanding the data and potential results – positive or negative. Take a breath before you click SHARE and consider what emotions will go through your loyal base of paying customers.

Why this short-term fumble might win the game.

Analysts are predicting a short-term loss on Nike stock, yet they anticipate this ad will position the company as a forward-thinking corporate partner committed to advancing social justice needs driven by a changing consumer demographic; long-term, stock prices are expected to rise as new investors feel called to support Nike's bold moves replacing traditional investors.

The power of your narrative today.

Narratives, today, are extremely powerful given social media’s ability to not only reach people in America, but the ability to reach people globally who live in more inclusive cultures calling on the world’s superpower to do better. Globalization challenges group-think, nationalism, and idealistic values as new views and social change are presented in seconds through live stream feeds making it hard to preserve the status quo on inexcusable behaviors or the truth that stares us down like a pit bull in a dark alley giving us two options: fight the hard fight to get to the other side or get mauled. If you're not thinking globally in today's business environment, you're not thinking about your future success. Whether you run a local business, every business today has the ability to tell their story reaching millions of people across the globe - you can stay silent, share something special, or alienate groups with the click on one button.

Why you need to be careful in who you endorse – celebrity, local hero, or social media influencer.

Carl Jung, the psychologist who coined the archetypes of a man, presents advertising agencies with 12 archetypes to connect with consumers – innocent, sage, explorer, outlaw, magician, hero, lover, jester, everyman, caregiver, ruler, and creator.  

Depending on your brand promise, you may choose to position your brand as relevant by adopting key influencers, especially in the digital era of advertising where storytelling matters with millennial consumers. These influencers need to resonate with the archetypes of your consumers – that’s why big brands have multiple faces to reach millions of people who look and act just like them.

Brands also have platforms and we’ve seen them drive political agendas using their customer base – from Starbucks on racial bias training to Nike’s ad today. As corporate America drives the national economy, some support them driving political change which impacts millions of workers’ lives. Whatever your position, understand the pros and cons of each bold move using data, insights, and intuition.

Do you need to be a champion to champion a cause?

One of sports greatest gifts is truly uniting people from around the world as athletes perform with class. Racism and racial profiling, a key platform of Mr. Kaepernick’s is without question something that goes against a “united” nation and while his actions are causing division today, we’ve seen from past outcries that these paradigm shifts bring more unity long-term. I don't think Americans have an issue with the issue, more so his approach.

While supporters believe that there are many merits to Mr. Kaepernick’s advocacy efforts, opponents detest his performance as an athlete stripping him of his credibility to champion this great of a cause – even though he made it into the NFL while many can only claim to drink a beer being a Monday morning quarter back. Add to it, his low blow on law enforcement officers labeling them as “pigs” is another cause of concern as his presence is highly visible before our youth who are easily influenced on the most important life-skill foundation - trust. While his mission is needed, his hasty generalizations on those who serve isn’t.

When choosing a brand champion, understand that there are many people out there to choose from – choose wisely as their values represent yours when they become a spokesperson.

A polarized nation makes having a conversation a challenge today.  

What Americans are tired of is the polarization that is so pervasive today. The sad part is, polarization fuels the time we are online debating meaningless things via social media – it also keeps us there tied to online ads and clickbait driving more revenue as people seek relief from something that looks comforting.

Whether we are for Nike, Kaepernick, the NFL, etc. doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are for human centered solutions in a time when division is the sin tearing us apart instead of creating this united nation that we all call home and that so many have died for to keep us safe today.

Perspective my friends, and hearing the perspective of others is what leadership is truly about. Leverage your influencers wisely, position your brand for long-term success, and use the platform of business to change our society for the better – be it mentoring one employee or helping thousands.

Understand that everyone is a public relations professional in today's online environment. Take the time to have a conversation at work on how social media is used, how all of you are portraying your company, and get a gut check on what your employees feel - do you think your next big ad will score a touchdown with consumers or do they feel differently. Communication and trust are the pillars of business, inside and out.

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© 2019 by Drew Aversa