Recently Nike has been in the news for a whole host of reasons that have an impact on pop culture and history. 

They’ve been collaborating with grand slam champion Serena Williams, they featured Caster Semenya in an ad that melted the hearts of South Africans, and boldly supported Colin Kaepernick in their ad campaign with a slogan that leaves no doubt about its political inference.

The latter was released with a fair amount of controversy and as we’ve mentioned below, bigots came out in full force. The initial backlash resulted in a drop in shares, which many predicted wouldn’t really hurt Nike in the long run.

It turns out that they were right because Reuters reports that their shares bounced back and that they sold 61% more of their products after Colin’s ad first debut. The results amusingly enough also prove Trump to be a liar – he tweeted that Nike was absolutely getting killed because of the backlash and boycotts.

While there isn’t any doubt that Nike has lost some customers, their campaign seems to have focused on drawing a whole new generation of customers – young, socially and politically-aware customers who embrace and welcome change.  

READ MORE: Serena Williams, Nike and Virgil Abloh keep serving us aces as they re-imagine tennis fashion

Colin, whose 'take-a-knee' actions were a peaceful way to protest police brutality against black people, received a lot of support, with a lot of sports players following suit at other subsequent matches. 

Naturally, along with that support, also came a fair amount of backlash from white supremacists, most notably incurring the wrath of U.S. president, Donald Trump. 

Trump labelled his actions as disrespectful (and that’s putting it mildly) towards the U.S. flag and military. There has been pushback from many veterans who said that being able to protest in any way or form was exactly what they spent their lives fighting for. 

Business Insider reports that the former National Football League (NFL) player tweeted a black and white image of himself with the tagline “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”


If that tagline doesn't also include a call out to those who failed to support Colin when he was ostracised by the NFL league, then I don’t know what is. 

Of course, people across social media platforms were up in arms over the campaign, and while many people have come out in support of Nike’s move, there has also been backlash from certain groups (spoiler alert: there a lot of white supremacists) who have decided to burn and destroy their Nike merchandise in protest.

Wow. Because burning gear and sports products you already paid for is absolutely the way to make Nike lose money. 



But let’s stop there for a second and talk about what Nike lost monetarily and why they took the calculated risk.

Fortune.com and Bloomsberg have reported that Nike lost about 3% of their shares following the debut of the ad

While folk like Trump and other racists have been running at the mouth and talking about how bad this is for them, there are a few things to consider here:

• Nike is no stranger to courting controversy and they previously, but subtly weighed in on #weshouldkneel debacle before.
• Fortune.com reports that even with the 3% decline, they have in the past year garnered more than a 50% stock increase over the year as well as over the last few years. Which means, that while not ideal, Nike could probably afford a loss. 
• Businesses often take risks and that means calculated losses as well. There is no way Nike wasn’t prepared for potential fallouts from this.
• According to Business Insider, Nike has earned more than R500 billion in their last fiscal year
• Bloomsberg analysts also revealed that the social media campaign already raked in $43 million (more than R567 billion)

So it would be fair to say that their loss won’t be all that significant in the long run.

READ MORE: Do we ever really boycott our favourite brands for being racist or tone deaf?

It would also be fair to say that a political move like this was both cunning and crafty. From a marketing standpoint, they’re leaning in and making a statement that will appeal to masses that are socially conscious, politically savvy and are woke. 

It’s a win for Colin and it’s a win for Nike. It's a victory for human rights.

When you think of it, boycotts and protesting brands often don’t really work that well, unless collective action is significant enough that store branches would need to shut down. 

The protests for Nike were ultimately racist and ill conceived (I mean, imagine placing the dignity of an inanimate flag over the value of human lives), but also because the merchandise was already paid for.

And if H&M stores survived protests about offensive merchandise and Starbucks can still continue to generate revenue even after getting negative backlash for racial profiling, then what does that say about consumer culture?

Because the problem with backlash, particularly on social media, is that for the most part, it dies down. People forget: they move on, spot a sporting new item they want and forget that the store they’re entering is the very one they were boycotting just months ago.

A final point and a good one raised by SA author and journalist Redi Thlabi; that the boycott of Nike shouldn’t have been about the flag or racism, it should have been about Nike’s little sweatshop problem.

But that’s a story for another day. 

When we reached out to a Nike spokesperson for commentary around the diversity of their #Justdoit campaign, they simply stated the following: 

“We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward."

And that is essentially just what they’re doing. Contributing to change by taking what many people have perceived to be a huge business risk. 

No company or brand is perfect, but one that’s willing to lean into the narrative of change and actively seeks to empower marginalised athletes, should be applauded. 

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