Michael Gallinari
Mike is a US Travel and Leisure Reports Analyst at Mintel. Mike writes reports about consumer travel preferences as well as leisure market research.

Nike has gained considerable press this week with the unveiling of their newest ad campaign featuring former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. The first ad centered on an image of Kaepernick’s face with the caption: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The ad ruled social media mentions on Labor Day, creating a fiery debate amongst supporters and detractors. The opposition to Kaepernick’s inclusion of the campaign showed destruction of Nike apparel and a call for a boycott of the sporting goods giant. Supporters of the Kaepernick ad had an inverse reaction with displays of support and mockery of the destruction.

Right or wrong, the national anthem protests have fueled heated debate since Kaepernick first took a knee to create social awareness toward equality and social injustice in 2016. Was it worth a predictable firestorm of criticism and calls for boycott for Nike to make a stand?

Source: Nike

Contrary to conventional wisdom, consumers will more readily support a company whose cause they agree with than boycott one that they disagree with, according to Mintel research on cause marketing in the US. This attitude is especially pronounced among iGens and Millennials. Six in 10 iGens and six in 10 Millennials would switch to a brand that shares their beliefs. Even if this current campaign doesn’t pan out, Nike is laying the groundwork to associate itself with social justice issues in the eyes of these two, increasingly powerful generations of consumers.

The reaction of the campaign has already seen impact, while Nike’s stock dropped three points immediately after the announcement, it never went below its 30-day low and has been on the mend since.

What we think

In the social media age, it’s no longer an option for brands to stay silent on issues that impact their category. Mintel research on marketing to US sports fans shows that eight in 10 adults agree that professional sports teams should take a stronger stand on controversial issues, indicating that major players in this category shouldn’t expect to fly under the radar. Nike is playing it smart by aligning the brand with an issue that resonates with younger generations.