Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Worth the Risk?
(6 pages of text)
Case (Pub Mat)
In the spring of 2018, the marketing team at Nike Inc. (Nike), based in Oregon, was faced with a decision regarding whether to follow the suggestion of the company’s long-standing advertising agency to sign Colin Kaepernick as the face of its upcoming “Just Do It” promotional campaign commemorating the 30-year anniversary of the slogan. Kaepernick was an NFL quarterback who had famously begun kneeling during the US national anthem in 2016 to protest social inequality and police brutality. At this juncture, the US political climate was extremely polarized, President Donald Trump had spoken out very negatively about Kaepernick’s “take-a-knee” protest, and the campaign would mark the first time in Nike’s history that the company adopted a clear political position in its promotional messaging. The company had to carefully weigh several issues, including the impact using Kaepernick would have on sales and on Nike’s brand image. Should Nike partner with Kaepernick on its campaign or pick a less controversial spokesperson? What market segments would be affected, and how? What were the implications for company sales and brand image?
This case is intended for use in undergraduate- and graduate-level marketing courses. It is well suited to an introductory-level marketing class or a specialized sports-marketing class, as it offers a chance for discussion of marketing strategy, segmentation, and forecasting. It examines Nike’s background, the political and social landscape in 2018, and the market segments that might be affected by any major marketing decisions Nike executives choose to make in terms of endorsers. Although the outcome of the campaign will likely be known to many, the company and context should nevertheless be naturally interesting to students and will provide a realistic backdrop against which to argue for the merits and drawbacks of multinationals taking sides in polarizing political debates as a means of growing brand recognition and loyalty. After working through the case and assignment questions, students will be able to do the following:
- Reflect on the adoption of different marketing and promotional strategies, and explain how these can affect different market segments, particularly with regard to political affiliations.
- Describe a variety of basic forecasting approaches, and identify their strengths and limitations.
- Outline the risks and merits associated with companies taking advocacy-related stands or incorporating controversial topics and themes into advertising.
Arts, Entertainment, Sports and Recreation
United States, Large, 2018
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