“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” are not just words that can be used to summarize the last several years in the life of Colin Kaepernick, but also the future of Nike and other advertising giants in a system of rabid political polarization.
Following backfire from promotional images containing Kaepernick and other athletes, Nike refused to back down from its stance as a new figure in the political movement and released its newest “Just Do It” advertising campaign ahead of schedule. The message is clear. No amount of sacrificial burnings of gym shoes and tracksuits are going to change Nike’s mind about the ideologies the company wishes to promote. Whether these are ideologies that its executives personally stand behind is another thing entirely.
Considering that Kaepernick has not been able to score another contract in the National Football League in light of his protests against police brutality in the United States, there was considerable risk in Nike taking the leap into this level of political advertising.
The public backlash was brutal and will only continue to grow with the release of the new commercial. However, the economical impacts of campaigns such as these are often hard to pinpoint immediately after their release. Whether Nike will fall, prosper, or stay stagnant after this massive move will be much clearer in the future.
This brings up a lot of hard political questions that we have to ask ourselves in the current state of social media and advertising.
How much do we want big business involved in our political process? At what point do we escape the harsh, strict lines of political divide?
We have reached the point where political values are so ingrained in our personal life that people who are against the views of Kaepernick take Nike’s ads as a personal attack. In 2018, a year in which fast food chains and athletic wear companies are attaching themselves to a partisan ideology, is anything really removed anymore?
But perhaps this is a monster of our own creation. Since the advertisement first appeared online last week, cries of “publicity stunt” have been heard from both the right and left sides of the spectrum. If that is what this is, who can really blame them? The exact goal of Nike’s advertising team, as well as for all brands, is buzz, and according to Time Magazine Kaepernick just brought in $163 million worth of it.
We as a nation bought into it hook, line and sinker.
With the current political state, passions are high. High passions lead to high interest which, if done right, can lead to high profits. What would the advertising companies be to not cash in on a willing, divided and ever separating nation of the blind?