To Politicize or Not to Politicize? That is the Advertising Question.
Image Credit: Colin Kaepernick/Twitter
In the live-or-die world of today’s advertising, Shakespeare is ever more relevant. Brand wars are dramas, after all. Each brand tries to achieve its goals while facing challenging obstacles. Twists and turns add flavor. But Nike chooses to get what it wants (sales) by being more irreverent, edgy and risky than its competitors. The recent Nike ad, featuring a headshot of former San Francisco Forty-Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick, with the caption – “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” with the tagline – “Just do it” is a perfect example of the question of life or death for a brand: How far can (or should) a brand go when it comes to taking a controversial position?
When an ad is cutting-edge (with an emphasis on the word “cutting”), the stakes are high. It can cut both ways. They can face fallout from some, admiration from others – which is certainly the case with the Nike/Kaepernick ad. What is without question, however, is that cutting-edge ads are memorable.
On Thursday night, September 6, a commercial that complements the Nike/Kaepernick print ad aired during the season opener of the NFL. Fanning the flames of controversy? Pushing the envelope even further? Whatever cliché one chooses, the ripple effect of this campaign will turn into a Tsunami whether you like it or hate it.
To say this campaign is divisive is an understatement. Those who support Kaepernick’s act of protest will favor the Nike brand when they look to make their next sportswear purchase. Those opposed to his actions may no longer purchase Nike products. (Reports claim Kaepernick’s detractors are destroying their Nike products as their own demonstrations of protest.) In fact, CNBC Markets reported this past Tuesday that Nike shares fell. Will this be a short-term loss? In the long run, could Nike stock rise? It is too soon to see how this will play out, but what is undeniable is the enormous publicity being generated by this current scenario. In fact, estimates are already cited at about $50 million, before the spot even aired. This is truly influencer marketing at its most intense – and influential.
According to the CNBC report, Nike has a mission to turn a spotlight on athletes who have overcome struggles. As John Gallagher, of the Detroit Free Press commented: “It's all part of our culture wars. But politics and protests aside, the Nike ad demonstrates an uncanny ability on Nike's part to understand its customers and to tap into the spirit of the age.”
Hot button topics such as the Nike/Kaepernick campaign may possibly be either the tip of the iceberg or the opening of floodgates for ads aimed at creating controversy. Then yet another question may be raised: Will future ads based on controversy be sincere – or merely sensational?
What would Shakespeare say about that?