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Martyr or marketing ploy: Is Nike really kneeling with Kaepernick?

During the week of the NFL season opener, Nike has strategically dropped their campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick and it’s erupted conversation, tension, and social media hashtag challenges. It’s divided the nation, once again, into the pro-kneelers and the anti-kneelers.

With Kaepernick in and of himself being such a controversial topic, Nike has been newly revered as a sort of “martyr” in the sense that they’re putting their sales at risk for the betterment of the nation and social inequality. However, with their instantly recognizable swoosh and slogan, Nike clearly knows a few things about marketing, so it’s hard to believe there is no personal motive here.

Any person can be pretty certain Nike ran the numbers and saw that, despite the shoe-burning and boycott-threatening, the move would be good for business. Let’s a take a look at the stats Nike most likely considered when making their decision…

Now, it’s no surprise that the majority of Nike’s demographic is young African-American males. We have a strong history of prioritizing Nike, specifically Jordan’s, within our low-income budgets, and even murder each other, just to have them in our possession.

Nike’s core demographic is primary millennials. The majority of Millennials (60 percent to be exact) are belief-driven buyers. But while a clear majority of Americans wants the brands they interact with to speak out on social issues, it’s also important to note that there are significant differences among demographic groups. According to Sprout Social:

“Seventy-eight percent of respondents who self-identify as liberal want brands to take a stand, while just about half (52 percent to be exact) of respondents who self-identify as conservative feel the same.”

The fact that liberals are a lot more interested in companies getting political no doubt made Nike’s decision even easier. As sports industry analyst Matt Powell noted in a since deleted tweet: “Old angry white guys are not a core demographic for Nike.” The company’s customers skew younger, urban, and liberal, so angering conservatives only won Nike increased loyalty. Not only is Nike’s core audience likely to be sympathetic to Kaepernick and the causes he stands for, but they’re also more likely to spend on sneakers.

Was the marketing powerhouse correct in their research and projections? As always… of course they were. Nike sales have increased 31% despite the backlash and burning of their already-purchased sneakers… and I don’t know about about you guys, but all I see on my social media nowadays is this Nike Kaepernick meme which has flooded my feed.

So now that we’ve proven our loyalty to Nike, we, as African-Americans, feel as though Nike has proven themselves to “us” by having a symbolic figure such as Kaepernick as the face of their 30th-anniversary campaign. However, is this really a plea for social justice or just a marketing ploy researched and proven to increase Nike’s profits for their own selfish reasons?

Nike is still in contract with the NFL for another 8 years, but do we think they would’ve made this same marketing decision if their contract was up for renewal in 2019, or even 2020? (Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!)

At the end of the day, what we can say to Nike for sure, whether social equality is their true intention or not, is “thank you for bullying the bully.”