So, why Colin Kaepernick?
Why did Nike choose, for its 30th anniversary of the Just Do It campaign, an out-of-work quarterback who hasn’t performed well in three years, rode the pine the year after going to the Super Bowl, and ended up jobless thanks to wild incompetence on the field?
There are sound business reasons.
Nike, you see, is a profit-focused corporation. There is real opportunity for profit-making in political pandering. And kowtowing to Kaepernick’s much-ballyhooed kneeling-for-the-anthem routine is political pandering in the extreme. Here’s why.
1. Nike Wants Free Publicity. Corporate marketing schemes thrive on free publicity. Viral marketing is, by definition, the kind of marketing you can’t really pay for. And by directly jumping into a fraught political issue, Nike has insured that its campaign will be the talk of the town, buying millions of dollars in coverage for which the company didn’t pay. Just wait until President Trump tweets about it.
2. President Trump Is Unpopular. What about Nike alienating half the country – namely, the 53 percent of Americans who disagree with Kaepernick’s kneeling for the anthem protests? That’s fine with Nike. They figure that Trump will continue to tweet about the issue, driving publicity, and making his own cause more toxic. After all, that’s what’s happened on the flag issue – the public was more united against Kaepernick before Trump began speaking about the issue.
3. Black Americans Disproportionately Support Kaepernick’s Protest. Nearly 7 in 10 black Americans support Kaepernick’s protests, as opposed to 6 in 10 white Americans who oppose it. So Nike knows that this campaign will be popular among a key demographic, because black Americans disproportionately spend more money on clothing and apparel. Furthermore, in the area of athletics, black Americans are often the taste-makers, given the overrepresentation of blacks in athletic fields. As Nielsen explains:
“Our research shows that Black consumer choices have a ‘cool factor’ that has created a halo effect, influencing not just consumers of color but the mainstream as well,” said Cheryl Grace, Senior Vice President of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement, Nielsen. “These figures show that investment by multinational conglomerates in R&D to develop products and marketing that appeal to diverse consumers is, indeed, paying off handsomely.”
4. Black Americans Disproportionately Engage With Corporations On Social Media. Finally, according to Nielsen:
In fact, 38% of African Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 and 41% of those aged 35 or older say they expect the brands they buy to support social causes, 4% and 15% more than their total population counterparts, respectively. … African Americans are more likely than non-Hispanic white peers to interact with brands on social media or to use social networks to support companies and brands (44% more likely).
Nike’s strategy makes sense. In a political fight, the capitalist always wins.