Less than a week after thesportswear giant Nike unveiled its new ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who is currently a free agent and whose protest against police brutality (he knelt during the anthem, but he wasn’t protesting the anthem) made him a controversial figure in the sports world, it looks like the collaboration is paying dividends. Whether Nike’s intention in working with Kaepernick was to support Black Lives Matter, to show the NFL that sponsors are not afraid of politics, to seem “woke” to potential customers, or simply to use a prominent figure to sell gear, it was probably a combination of factors, and the move has been praised for highlighting and promoting an athlete using his platform for good, especially since the NFL has a history of problematic stars. (Cough, cough, domestic abuse.) The numbers are in, and the bottom line is fine.
Despite some conservatives’ claim that they would boycott the brand, “Nike’s online sales grew 31% from Sunday through Tuesday of Labor Day weekend this year. That’s notably better than last year’s 17% seasonal increase,” according to Fortune. And though the president claimed on Twitter that the brand was hurting because of their alignment with Kaepernick and his peaceful sideline protest (Nike stock did briefly drop but has since recovered), Dazed reports that the company was mentioned over 1,000 percent more on social media because of the campaign, and quotes analyst Aaron Goldman, who explains, “You can be darn sure that Nike has done its research and knows what will move its product and who this campaign will resonate with.”
Perhaps most importantly, the cadre of sports stars in the Nike sponsorship family are sticking by the company. The Boston Globe reports that “LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Tom Brady all…appeared to endorse the Nike ad” through social media likes, tweets, and speeches, respectively. Nike doesn’t necessarily need ultraconservative football fans; if it has its athletes and its customers, well, that’s how you sell shoes.