Nike took a big risk when it signed an endorsement deal with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The player had caught a lot of flak from the league and from some fans for his unwavering stance on police brutality and racism in the country, and his insistence on kneeling during the singing of the National Anthem before games quickly earned him a reputation as a social justice warrior.
His actions weren’t well-received by everyone, however. In fact, he found himself out of a job and out of the favor of many NFL fans around the country. But Nike went out on a limb. They plucked Kaepernick and signed him to an endorsement deal, launching a campaign dedicated the idea of standing up (or kneeling down) for what you believe in.
It was a risk, and a big one. For such a polarizing character to sign an endorsement deal with a prominent sportswear brand, the risks were big. How would the general public receive the ad? Would they burn all their Nike gear? Would stores drop Nike from their distributor list? Would teams drop their sponsorships from Nike?
While some were displeased with the decision, the numbers in fact speak for themselves: Nike has made $6 billion since the Kaepernick campaign was released.
“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The campaign tagline made chills run down the spine of many viewers, and the alignment of Nike with the core value of integrity and standing by your beliefs, even through the toughest adversity, rang true and hit a home run from an advertising standpoint.
Of course, this big gamble could have been a disaster, but it was a chance Nike was willing to take in order to demonstrate its alignment with that underlying message. And in an age in which consumers desperately want to feel connected to companies and to feel that brands are conveying a genuine social message, this is invaluable.
A brand that not only creates content around its core values but sticks by them is one that that will win over customer loyalty. The idea of “walking the walk” is an important takeaway here, however, as many brands often spend a lot of time putting out creative materials around social causes or core values — but their actions fail to reflect these views. This can be damaging beyond repair and an overall PR nightmare should it happen and consumers catch wind.
So integrity plays a big role in these cases. A brand must display integrity, not only in its advertising but in its actions as a business. Many brands are beginning to launch advertising campaigns around the idea of core values and social causes. While these campaigns do a lot for visibility, what happens when the brand takes actions off camera that contradict these values? This can be extremely detrimental to a brand’s reputation.
Many may have opposed Nike’s daring ad campaign as an attention grab or way to take advantage of a hot topic. And while opportunity was definitely a part of this strategy, taking a look back at Nike’s past campaigns brings about similar emotions. This shows that the brand has always taken a stand on grit, determination, and belief.
Strong brand values can go a long way with customer loyalty, and that is an important metric to track in today’s digital marketing environment. What values does your brand have, and what’s the best way to integrate those in a genuine way?