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Why Nike's new campaign is so relevant

It has to do with Colin Kaepernick, anti-Trump and civil rights movement

Why Nike's new campaign is so relevant It has to do with Colin Kaepernick, anti-Trump and civil rights movement

Last night, around 21.30, I got a Whatsapp message from a dear friend with a tweet by Darren Rovell, ESPN and ABC News Sports Business Reporter and real expert of the NBA and NFL world. The very short text, as usual on Twitter, was nevertheless extremely important: "BREAKING: Nike has kept paying Colin Kaepernick for all this time, waiting for the right moment. The moment has now arrived, since he has just become the face of the 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign." 

Along with the tweet, there was a pic posted by the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback with his face and a quote: "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. Just Do It." All this might not be totally clear for those who don't follow the NFL, or don't know anything about its view on President Trump or about the ethnic issue in the States. Here's a list of a few things to help you understand better why this Swoosh ad is so important and powerful. 


"I am not going to stand up” 

The name of Colin Kaepernick began to be well-known back in summer 2016, when the then San Francisco 49ers quarterback, during the national anthem - played before every NFL match- remained sit and later kneeled down, as a protest against the great number of violent police actions, which in a lot of cases caused the death of many young afroamerican kids. "I won't stand up to honor the flag of a country that oppresses black people" declared Kaepernik, "for me, this is more important than football, it would be selfish of me to just ignore it and look the other way." 

Initially both NFL and 49ers had basically encouraged Kaepernick's freedom of choice, arguing that the national anthem moment was a ritual in which the players "were invited to participate, but were not forced to" and claiming that "everyone has the right to decide to not participate." Afterwards, though, especially with the beginning of Trump presidency, in January 2017, Kaepernick's situation got complicated. Burnt jerseys, death treaths, the firing from the 49ers, the impossibility to find another team, more because of his political position than because of his real abilities. Colin Kaeperinck has turned into the symbol of a movement against-Trump and in support of the minorities' civil rights. 

“Just Do It”

Fast-forward to last night and you'll probably start to understand why Nike's decision is more relevant than ever. In the last few weeks, the sporstwear giant began to spread a series of messages - testified by figures like Serena Williams and LeBron James - that hinted at the company's intention to stand alongside its athletes. Just think of the “More than an Athlete” promotional tour with which LeBron is travelling through Asia and Europe, or the support shown to Serena after the Roland Garros ban. This time Nike has really gone all the way, with a testiomonial kept secret and supported through all this time. And we're talking about a serious deal, since Nike will create with Kaepernick a line of sneakers, T-shirts, jersey and more. 

From a more materialistic point of view, there's also the ethic and moral issue. "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything", besides being the summary of Kaepernick's life in the last few years, seems to be a proper declaration of intent by the American brand. "This is what we think and we're ready to believe in it, despite the consequences." This philosophy is exemplified in the words of Gino Fisanotti, Nike VP in North America: "We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward." 


Reactions and consequences 

Obviously the campaign "broke the internet" within a few hours, causing the most different reactions. The news had a huge impact, making "Nike" a trend topic for many hours with more than one million tweets, along with "Kaepernick" (428k) and "JustDoIt" (200k). Going back to Darren Rovell, who can be considered a kind of benchmark since his great popularity and relevance in this particular context, he was the one to put things in perspective. "I've been on Twitter for nine and a half years, and this is the first post (the one about Kaepernick's announcement) to get more than 10k comments." 

The other interesting fact, when the fuss will be passed, will be the response of Nike costumers, and the impact of the campaign on a great number of Americans can't be understimated, for better or for worse. The most 'extreme' reactions did not keep us waiting: on the internet you can find a lot of photos and videos of Nike items and apparel in flames or cut in pieces out of protest, even though the number is very small. For what it's worth - both because it took place on Twitter and because it's not so reliable - Rovell himself took a poll to estimate the reactions. In a survey among almost 36 thousands users (not a few), the 29% of them is more willing to buy Nike items from now on, while for 21% of them it is less likely. For the majority of people the new "Just Do It" campaign with Colin Kaepernick will not affect their decision to buy ot not Nike items at all. 


Whatever happens, this new chapter in the Nike communication book will definitely leave its mark, if only for its clear social and political stand. Many athletes of NFL, NBA, MLS and other sports are tired to sit back and have decided to use their position in the American society, spreading messages of equality and justice. In this context, Nike has taken a clear decision, standing alongside its athletes "no matter what". Without hypocrisy, since everything is connected with marketing, business and merchandising. But in a moment in which even a small act has a deep meaning, Nike's decision is not little at all.