Nike Courts Controversy With Kaepernick Campaign
Nike Courts Controversy With Kaepernick Campaign

The sponsorship is just the latest effort in a decades-long strategy of divisive posturing.

On Monday, Nike announced that Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who initiated the kneeling protest that has consumed the NFL for the past two years, will be the face of a marketing campaign celebrating the 30th anniversary of the company’s “Just Do It” slogan.

The new campaign, first revealed by Kaepernick on Twitter, has proven predictably divisive. Some Kaepernick critics are destroying their Nike items, while fans are applauding the partnership, some purchasing Nike apparel and donating it to charities.

The controversy is likely to stay in the headlines for a while, as the Kaepernick ad is only the first spot in the year-long campaign — Serena Williams has also signed on to participate — but The New York Times points out that this is far from the first time that Nike has courted controversy with an ad campaign. 

The Times piece points to previous Nike campaigns that deliberately poked at hot-button cultural issues. One featured Tiger Woods saying that his skin color still prevented him from joining some country clubs. Another had Charles Barkley tell fans that he was not a role model. 

While the new Kaepernick campaign is sure to alienate a large chunk of Nike’s consumer base and is already drawing calls for boycotts, the Times suggests the effort is calculated to appeal to younger customers, noting that nearly two-thirds of Nike customers are under 35.

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Image courtesy of @Kaepernick7 on Twitter.