Nike’s (NYSE: NKE) share price closed yesterday at an all-time high of $83.47 on the back of the company’s new marketing campaign featuring American Football quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick played for the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers from 2011 to 2016 and became known for protesting injustice by refusing to stand for the national anthem at the start of games.
The Dream Crazy campaign features Kaepernick saying, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” and marks the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” slogan. To date, the 2 minute video at the centre of the campaign has been viewed over 25 million times.
Initial public reaction savaged the sneaker maker. Nike shares fell to $79.60 on 4 September, the first day of trading after the American Labor Day long weekend, over which the campaign was launched. This was a significant initial drop of over 3 percent from the previous closing price of $82.20.
Critics of the Nike campaign ranged from everyday Nike consumers to the President of the United States. Donald Trump weighed in with a tweet on 7 September asking “What was Nike thinking?” and the hashtag #justburnit started trending on Twitter with users defacing or burning their Nike products in response to the campaign.
But, very quickly, the tide turned. Nike’s alignment with the instigator of demonstrations during the national anthem to bring attention to racial injustice and police brutality has bolstered its image with the younger millennial demographic.
Major social media influencers Serena Williams and LeBron James, who both feature in the campaign, came out strongly in support of Nike and Kaepernick.
James shared the Nike ad on his Instagram account alongside an emoji of a black fist. James has nearly 42 million followers on Instagram and the post has been liked almost 1.5 million times. Williams, who has almost 11 million followers on Twitter tweeted that she was “especially proud to be a part of the Nike family today.” The tweet has been retweeted 57,000 times.
Investors on Robinhood, an American no fee brokerage platform popular with younger users started buying Nike stock in droves. Sales are up 300 percent since the launch of the campaign and the stock is now held by 22,000 investors, an increase of 18 percent from the previous week when the campaign was launched.
More and more consumers, especially millennials expect brands to reflect their moral and political values, and in this instance, millennials have paid attention. We’ve all heard the old adage, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”, and that’s exactly what Nike is doing in targeting millennial consumers.
Young people buy a lot of sneakers, so in creating this campaign Nike has raised the middle finger to a whole lot of conservative, older Americans who, let’s face it, may only buy sneakers every few years on sale. In doing so, they have repositioned themselves to an entire generation of new fans.