Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Worth the Risk?
In the spring of 2018, the marketing team at Nike Inc. (Nike), based in Oregon, was faced with a decision regarding whether to follow the suggestion of the company's long-standing advertising agency to sign Colin Kaepernick as the face of its upcoming "Just Do It" promotional campaign commemorating the 30-year anniversary of the slogan. Kaepernick was an NFL quarterback who had famously begun kneeling during the US national anthem in 2016 to protest social inequality and police brutality. At this juncture, the US political climate was extremely polarized, President Donald Trump had spoken out very negatively about Kaepernick's "take-a-knee" protest, and the campaign would mark the first time in Nike's history that the company adopted a clear political position in its promotional messaging. The company had to carefully weigh several issues, including the impact using Kaepernick would have on sales and on Nike's brand image. Should Nike partner with Kaepernick on its campaign or pick a less controversial spokesperson? What market segments would be affected, and how? What were the implications for company sales and brand image?