Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, Colin Kaepernick and his stand against racial injustice in the U.S. has been at the forefront of both political and sports news.
Now, with global sports brand Nike choosing Kaepernick as the face of their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, both Kaepernick and Nike have been thrust into the spotlight, negatively and positively.
In this week’s Marketing on Tap podcast, we discuss the outrage from a section of Nike consumers, what it means for Nike, and the rise of brands willing to draw definitive lines when it comes to divisive topics.
Settle back and enjoy this week’s topic, brought to you in the usual unscripted manner that you’ve come to expect when Sam and Danny take the mic.
If you prefer to listen on the go, the audio version of this week’s episode can be listened to below.
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Intro: Welcome to Marketing on Tap, a weekly podcast in which marketing pros and authors Sam Fiorella and Danny Brown serve up the latest marketing hot topics, campaigns and trends, all washed down with a great craft beer. Join in for the fun as they debate the pros and cons of the topic of the week while featuring popular or up and coming micro breweries. Topics include influence marketing, brand campaign successes and misses, customer advocacy programs, and marketing challenges facing businesses and agencies. It’s the marketing podcast to listen to for CMOs, senior sales executives and key decision makers at mid to enterprise level organizations. And with their good natured bashing of each other, each episode promises to entertain and educate in equal measure. Welcome to Marketing on Tap.
Sam Fiorella: Welcome, everybody. Back to another episode of Marketing on Tap vlog and podcast. Sam Fiorella. This is my buddy Danny Brown.
Sam Fiorella: Today, we are talking about-
Danny Brown: A good one.
Sam Fiorella: It is a good one.
Danny Brown: Timely.
Sam Fiorella: It’s got to be the hottest topic right now on the internet and certainly with marketers. And it’s Nike’s 30th anniversary campaign of the Just Do It iconic logo and brand that they’ve come up with it. What’s getting all the buzz, of course, is Colin Kaepernick’s use of … His use in this ad. Of course, they’ve got Serena Williams. They’ve got a slew of other athletes both famous and non famous, but it’s Colin Kaepernick that’s really getting all the attention in this campaign. And the reason for that, for those of you that don’t know … And I don’t think there’s anybody in North America that doesn’t know this story-
Danny Brown: No.
Sam Fiorella: -At this point.
Danny Brown: No.
Sam Fiorella: But basically, Kaepernick was a former … Keyword there, former 49ers quarterback who, two seasons ago, began to protest social injustice in a non-violent way by kneeling during the National Anthem ahead of an American football game. Other NFL players quickly followed suit.
Sam Fiorella: And of course that got the attention of a certain president in the White House and that just blew up. In a political world … We’ve talked about this now on a couple of podcasts. In a political world, sides were drawn, became a thing. And now the quarterback hasn’t been employed for two years and he’s filed a collusion lawsuit against the NFL for conspiring to get him out because of his peaceful political protest.
Sam Fiorella: Anyway, the campaign was actually a very good ad campaign.
Danny Brown: Real good.
Sam Fiorella: If you strip out all the politics and everything else around it.
Danny Brown: Yeah.
Sam Fiorella: Had a picture calling Kaepernick, “Just do it. Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Danny Brown: I mean even just as a marketing message that stands alone, taking out the political backdrop that’s also there.
Sam Fiorella: Right, exactly and certainly and then with the, “Just do it” below it, and then it really ties in very well. So we wannat talk about the good and the bad of this. Is it gonna last? Was it a calculated mistake? And I wanna reference back to last week, we were talking about brands that are tone deaf, and a comment I made at the end of that. So this is really timely. So what did you just pour me?
Danny Brown: This is … well we mentioned the end of the summer, we thought it was the end of the summer last week. But, nope, it’s still kicking in now.
Sam Fiorella: Oh my God, it is so hot.
Danny Brown: It’s crazy, 32 degrees yesterday with feeling like 40. It was ridiculous. So it’s another summer wheat beer, this one’s from Black Oak Brew and Co who’s here in Toronto. It’s BlackOakBeer.com if you wanna check them out. It’s a really just an Belgian style wheat beer. And you can smell it right away. As I poured it, you could the [inaudible 00:03:45] hops. It’s got orange zest in there. They also have a touch of spice to give a little bit of kick back on it.
Danny Brown: It’s pretty easy drinking beer, it should be, 4.5% APV and only 50 IVU.
Sam Fiorella: This is the way, I like old spice.
Danny Brown: Yeah, cheers.
Sam Fiorella: Cheers. I am such a fan of Belgian wheat anything. This is fantastic.
Danny Brown: This is really good.
Sam Fiorella: Cheers, mate. That’s awesome
Danny Brown: That’s … yeah, if you get a chance to try this in Black Oak Brew, this is a great end of summer beer.
Sam Fiorella: Why have we never been there? How is this possible?
Danny Brown: We’ll have to go.
Sam Fiorella: I think maybe that’s gonna be our … by the way, it’s 9:30 in the morning here.
Danny Brown: We wish.
Sam Fiorella: Yeah, okay. So let’s get back to the ad. Good or bad? Your thoughts …
Danny Brown: Yeah I loved it. As soon as I saw, I mean, like you say …
Sam Fiorella: You would, you’re so gullible. You [crosstalk 00:04:34]
Danny Brown: I am gullible but then I’m also taking it from a point of view that I know when I’m gullible. If I like a picture and the words put together, it goes back to my grade five days, I’m good with that. But no, I just thought that the contrast between the image and the word and then put together. And Nike’s always been known for pretty banging marketing and advertising. And the rest of the ads, when you look at the folks they’ve used and the message they’ve used for the folks in other ads. I think it’s a great way to go for a new audience as Nike looks forward to the next, say, 30 years.
Sam Fiorella: Well let’s talk about that. Because obviously there’s a lot of social backlash. You can not deny that their stock price dropped 3%, I think it was, right, that first day. Investors already knew, this is an iconic brand wading into politics in a way, cuz they’re taking a stand on what has become a very decisive issue or Colin Kaepernick has become a very divisive figure in this political discourse that’s going on.
Sam Fiorella: And so while this isn’t a political show, we can’t not help but address the fact that this ad is taking a side, essentially on a political argument. And so we wanna talk about the marketing side of that. What I’ve … my take one that, and I wanna get yours, is that they’re going after the right audience here. Their audience is 35 and under, that’s really their core audience. So basically, the millennials right now, they’re the ones that are spending the money. And my experience with millennials is they wanna believe in something. They wanna brand that also believes in what they believe.
Danny Brown: Right.
Sam Fiorella: And millennials are really looking at brands that are authentic, brands that stand for something, that value transparency, and in fact, they value real, being real, and even flaws over being perfect.
Danny Brown: Oh yeah.
Sam Fiorella: And so this ad really sticks that message right across. This is us. This is who we are. You know what I mean? Warts and all, we know you’re not gonna like us and, in fact, that might actually work for us.
Danny Brown: Yup.
Sam Fiorella: Right? Is this something that other iconic brands should follow suit on? Or is this just too dangerous?
Danny Brown: Well you’re starting to see, I mean, Ford just came out and messaged their support for the protests and the anthem. Like Dick’s Sporting Goods with the gun lobby in the US, also drew a line in the sand, and have not really suffered for it. I mean, Nike, this morning, they’re back up to over $80 a share, 80 cents, might be bad, $80. So they’re already starting to climb back up. And you have to think that they took the rest knowing they would expect this backlash.
Danny Brown: But if you look on Twitter and the places that people are having a go at Nike, for every one, just an anecdotic, for every one outcry, there’s another 10 or 20 people saying, well, I’m now gonna buy Nike because it stands for what I stand for.
Sam Fiorella: Well, let’s talk a little bit about that because it’s very, again, we’ve mentioned this three or four times now. It’s a very divisive environment that we’re in. It is what it is. And we marketers now need to address that. So last week, at the end of the podcast, I said, maybe if you’re a brand you wanna stay away from politics and religion and other cultural things like that because it’s so potentially dangers. Because you don’t know, marketing today or political science even, not just marketing, but political science is all about how are people going to react to something. And on social media it’s a powder keg, you never know how people are going to react. The best of intentions can go downhill.
Sam Fiorella: And so it’s about this taking a stand now, so I’m not sure that other brands would wanna take that risk. But if they are gonna take that risk, what are some of the key elements that they should be focusing on?
Danny Brown: Well A, I think it’s gotta reflect with your brand. I mean, people were speaking about Nike, this being a PR stunt. But if you look at Nike’s history, they give so much in aid in local community, they’ve got the Nike N7 program for the aboriginals and the Native Americans. They’re tied into a kids hospital where the kids design their own sneakers and the profits go back into the hospital and resources of the hospital.
Danny Brown: So they’ve got that background. And I know there’s been the stories about the sweatshops that they use in Asia, to produce products. So there’s always been a certainly weird counter to the good they do, I guess. But I think if a marketing team at a brand like Nike is gonna get involved, A, you’ve go full in. I don’t think it’s a half hearted thing. You can’t, certainly, put your feet in and hope for the best. You look at Nike and what they’re doing, they’re going full tilt with this message.
Danny Brown: The audience has to be the right one. So like you mentioned earlier, Nike’s audience is clearly the audience that aligns with social justice, equality for all, etc. Which ties in perfectly to this particular campaign.
Sam Fiorella: But see, not everybody does it right. And we talked about Coke, not Coke, Pepsi.
Danny Brown: Pepsi, yeah, yeah.
Sam Fiorella: With the Kendall Jenner example last week. And clearly that one didn’t work. But the interesting thing about the audience … well actually, let’s just finish with Pepsi and Kendall, how could that have done better? I’m thinking to myself, had Coke done that would it have been any different. I’m thinking, is it the brand or is it the message and just the execution of it. So had Coke done that, that same ad with the same message, the same visuals, everything. I think it would have actually worked for them, right? Because Coke … if you think about the way their brand Ethos or their brand has always been, “Come together.” Remember their Christmas jingles? Everybody’s singing, and it was always about coming together as a family. The names on the Coke and giving it …
Danny Brown: Yeah.
Sam Fiorella: So that whole message that message that they were trying to get across with that Kendall Jenner ad, in light of the Black Lives Matter protest was, can’t we all just get along, right? And so that ties into Coke’s brand message, what it’s always invested in. Here, what Nike has always done is not just let’s just do it, so ‘just do it’ but the founder famously said that in the United States, sport is culture.
Danny Brown: Right.
Sam Fiorella: And that Nike needs to define that culture, right? That was always the way they started, this whole ‘just do it’ thing, it just sort of ties in. So I think it makes a lot of sense. So I think beyond the points that you made, definitely you’re right. If a brand is going to do it, it has to be authentic to them, right. So I think that’s gotta be one of the … you have to stand for something.
Sam Fiorella: So maybe let’s look at that, that you have to stand for something. Do you? One of the articles that I read recently when I was looking up some of the information around this, with great fascination was that a lot of pundents are saying that today brands have to stand for something.
Danny Brown: Right.
Sam Fiorella: It doesn’t necessarily have to be political, but because people life in a divisive world, everything is black and white, maybe pun intended there, or not intended. Nobody’s going to believe that you as a brand stand neutral, right? Robert, our producer here was very clear, with anger in his eyes, “Don’t make this a political show.” We don’t want to take a stand on politics, that’s not what our brand is.
Sam Fiorella: But, you know what, it’s funny, because I’m beginning to think that today, to capture audience, it’s no longer about getting fans, it’s about having fanatics.
Danny Brown: Right.
Sam Fiorella: Right? One side or the other, you need to have those die-hard loyal fans. And the way to do that is to align yourself with what they believe in. So is that the case today? Does a brand need to take a stand on social, political, cultural issues to be relevant to today’s audience?
Danny Brown: I think it’s getting, if it’s not there already, it’s probably getting there. Like you mentioned, the audience for Nike, for example, the age group. If you look at what’s happening across, not just North America but the globe, where there’s very sharp lines being drawn politically and commercially, I guess. And it is about your customers now want you to be like the. We always used to talk about the relationship with a brand, etc. But it’s not about that. It’s about the relevance of the brand to your beliefs.
Danny Brown: And it shows you with Nike, if I’m gonna buy something, I don’t buy Nike, I don’t really buy name brands anymore. I’m a cheapskate, I’m Scottish. If I was gonna look for a new one based on this campaign, I would support Nike with my dollars because it aligns with how I feel about racism, bigotry, etc.
Danny Brown: And I think the brands that do it and do it well and do it honestly, they’ll succeed from it. Like we said, Nike took a big hit on the stock market, but they’re coming back up already. So it’ll be interesting to watch it over the next three to six months and see the real impact from that.
Sam Fiorella: And I think long term Nike is gonna be stronger for this personally. Cuz I think their audience wants them to take this stand. And so while there’s definitely a lot of people who don’t like what they’re doing, the burning of the sneakers that you’ve been seeing online.
Danny Brown: Which they’ve already paid for so Nike wins anyway.
Sam Fiorella: I know, who wins in that case? But, I mean, if I believed in something like that too, I would have burned the $100 shoes. I actually just bought a pair of Nike shoes, I would have burned them had I believed that this was the wrong thing to do. But, politics aside, it’s a good ad. But not everybody has done it well.
Sam Fiorella: If you go back and take a look at Chick-Fil-A, 10 years ago actually. This was when Barack Obama wasn’t president yet. There was a whole political backlash against them as supporting, or actually, not supporting a gay marriage or benefits for gay couples that worked for them. So there was a huge backlash there, both positive and there’s also a positive backlash cuz there were people who wanted to support them for … because it fell in line with their culture and belief. And they took a stand and they were supportive. And then all kinds of people who weren’t.
Sam Fiorella: 10, 12 years later, Chick-Fil-A is growing like crazy [crosstalk 00:14:49] And now they’re in Canada, they’re expanding here. So, I mean, that’s one example. Then you take a look at the Dixie Chicks, if you remember, they took a political stand against George Bush Jr. Against the war. And they’ve not come back. They weren’t able to survive that backlash. So sometimes taking a stand, of course that was 15 years ago, 16 years ago, times have changed. I think it’s kind of fascinating to see how we’re going where today, and I might be walking back what I said last week, which is maybe you do need to take a stand but make sure that it’s calculated.
Danny Brown: One thing that ties in, though, you mentioned last week, brands can’t afford to be tone deaf. And I think Nike, with this campaign has shown they’re not tone deaf to who their audience is and who their audience is going to be to buy the products, right?
Sam Fiorella: Yeah, that’s a good point. On other thing I wanna put out there. In the influence marketing course that I teach, I’m always talking about the progression of influence marketing, right? And I’m wondering if we’re seeing a Renaissance of celebrity influence with this campaign. Cuz it used to be that, part of my curriculum right now is, remember when supermodels were the thing? Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell and they were the face of makeup ads.
Sam Fiorella: And then that gave way to celebrities and you notice a lot of female celebrities were replacing the supermodels in those makeup ads because marketers found them to be more relatable to the audience. And then celebrities gave way to real women. Remember the Dove Real Beauty campaign. And so just everyday women senior ladies that were senior citizens that were bing used in the makeup ads. But now, all of the sudden, Serena Williams is all anybody wants to talk about and Colin Kaepernick. I’m wondering if you were gonna see this Renaissance of celebrity influence coming back and that brands, should we be pushing them back towards those celebrities?
Danny Brown: I think it goes to the kind of celebrity. We spoke about the Kardashians, Chris Parker last week I think. But the two people you mentioned, they’re an inspiration. And when I think if you look at inspirational celebrities because of what they’ve achieved and how they’ve achieved it [inaudible 00:16:57]
Sam Fiorella: Celebrity for the sake of celebrity.
Danny Brown: Exactly, right. So I think if you’re looking to use it, like Nike’s done for example get the people that, A, and I’m sorry for repeating this, but align with your brand and you’re audience’s brand values. And have an inspirational message that people want [inaudible 00:17:12] to be, aspire to be even.
Sam Fiorella: I agree with that. And we’re getting the signal, we have our fancy bell. It’s last call so I’ll pass it to you, mate. What’s the one take away from all of the furor that’s happened over the course of this week with this campaign? What’s the one take away brands should have, or marketers?
Danny Brown: I think it goes back, we mentioned it earlier, going through and really support and stand behind what you’re gonna stand for. Because if you go in half hearted, people are gonna see that it’s not really you, it’s not[inaudible 00:17:45] honesty, it’s a PR stunt or whatever. But Nike’s taken a financial hit, they’re doing it with the charity work they already do and the people used in the message, they’re putting out, in this particular environment, it puts them exactly where they want to be. And you know exactly what they stand for. So for my it’s go in 100% or don’t do it at all.
Sam Fiorella: Well contrast that to what happened when, remember the soccer players, those teen soccer players were stuck in the cave? We talked about this in one of our first podcasts, right? And then Tesla’s owner famously created that overnight created that little submarine and backpack submarine to get in there. And the media backlash to him, he was trying to get in on something that was culturally relevant, that was important, that was newsworthy. He wanted to do something and that backfired on him. So why did that backfire on him whereas you’re suggesting something like this is working for Nike?
Danny Brown: I think because it was the fact that he made such a big splash. He went down himself, he was trying to tell people this will work. And it had never been tested in that environment etc. And if you look at kinda the news that’s followed Musk since then, it’s [crosstalk 00:18:52]
Sam Fiorella: It’s going downhill ever since that happened.
Danny Brown: So I think it’s just seemed opportunistic that [inaudible 00:18:58] actually taking a stand for what your brand believes.
Sam Fiorella: All right, I agree. And we were told that we shouldn’t agree, because we don’t always agree but somehow we’re been always on the same side.
Danny Brown: We’ll do a soccer podcast.
Sam Fiorella: Well, yeah we can talk about that, we’ll definitely disagree on a lot of things. By the way, Liverpool is still well ahead of [crosstalk 00:19:17]
Danny Brown: Season’s early, I’m happy for you guys. I love that Alison stayed the other week. That was awesome. Good to see you spending seven million on a [inaudible 00:19:25] keeper.
Sam Fiorella: No, that’s true, that’s true. That was a pretty big blunder that he had. But we’re still number one on the table so …
Danny Brown: You are.
Sam Fiorella: And Arsenal is what?
Danny Brown: Oh we’re about ninth.
Sam Fiorella: Ninth, tenth?
Danny Brown: We’re climbing[inaudible 00:19:35]
Sam Fiorella: Well good for Arsenal, they’re ninth. Woohoo! But my final take is and I think it’s gotta be not just go all in, which is definitely important. If you’re gonna do it you gotta do it all in. It’s gotta align. Brands that express a legitimate point of view will never be faulted. And I think that’s what it is, it’s gotta be a legitimate point of view but one that is culturally relevant with their brand, one that fits with the ethos of their brand. And I think if it does that, it’s right. In this case, ‘just do it’ the fact that they’ve always believed that sport is the culture in America, like I mentioned before. This just fit right. Had Puma done this …
Danny Brown: No, exactly[crosstalk 00:20:19]
Sam Fiorella: Or anybody else, New Balance or Under Armor, it would not have fit and I think the backlash would have been even bigger than what it is right now and may have had a longer term impact on the brand than what Nike is gonna experience. I think Nike will come out, cuz quite frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen or felt that Nike was more culturally relevant than it is today, right? At least that’s the general consensus from the consumers, maybe not from political pundents but definitely from consumers. And I guess that’s all that matters.
Sam Fiorella: So anyway, that’s it for this week. Thank you everybody for tuning in once again. I wanna remind people if you are in the Toronto area in October, check out SenseiMarketing.com. We are hosting a one day influence marketing workshop. It’s an executive MBA course that we’re doing. It’s October 24th. Check out our site if you’re interested in attending that.
Sam Fiorella: If you like what we’re doing here and you wanna be alerted, subscribe to the podcast, hit like on the YouTube, I don’t even know where we are anymore, on the YouTube channel is that’s where you’re watching us or subscribe to the podcast if you’re listening to us.
Sam Fiorella: So that’s it. Danny Brown, Sam Fiorella, cheers everybody.
Danny Brown: Cheers, guys.
Sam Fiorella: Cheers.
Outro: You’ve been listening to Marketing on Tap with Sam Fiorella and Danny Brown. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next one. And please feel free to leave a show review. That’s always worth a cheers.