When Controversy Turns a Profit: Kaepernick’s Endorsement with Nike

Maya Sabbaghian, Opinion Editor

Nike announced Colin Kaepernick as one of the many faces of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” Campaign on Sept. 5. Despite the highly controversial decision, Kaepernick’s involvement was a clever advertising tactic and overall advantageous (and profitable) decision.

In 2016, Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, kneeled during the national anthem in order to draw mainstream attention to police brutality towards African Americans. This action launched him into a heated debate, in which some sided with Kaepernick and others deemed his kneeling unpatriotic. Nike’s decision to feature Kaepernick pulled the company into the debate, with some people praising Nike and others going so far as to burn their Nike wear in protest.

Despite the argument, Nike has profited from the publicity.

Nike’s sales spiked 27 percent shortly after the advertisement was released. However, its sales have lowered to 18 percent, now at the same level prior to the ad’s release, according to CNBC. Despite this, the attention that the ad garnered effectively improved Nike’s sales.

It is also important to recognize that in May Nike had a slew of accusations regarding sexual assault, according to the New York Times. There is also the long-standing attention on Nike’s use of sweatshops to produce its apparel. With Kaepernick’s controversial endorsement, attention has shifted from the other accusations.  

No matter what side someone is on, Nike has profited from the heavy coverage. As Vox put it, “The spirit that drives one person to burn a pair of already purchased Nikes is the same spirit that might move another person to buy the branded apparel that’s part of Kaepernick’s endorsement with the company.”

Either way, Nike wins.