Just Do It: Nike’s Political Campaign

Nike Shoe


So now Colin Kaepernick is cool too. Whoever is chosen by the American sporting goods manufacturer Nike as the first advertising ambassador can be nothing else. In questions of coolness, Nike has developed a certain power of definition in recent decades aside from their effective pricing strategy for shoes. The group’s popular slogan “Just do it” has also found a large, especially young following due to its elasticity and width. Be spontaneous! Just do it! Whatever!

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of “Just do it”, Nike has now chosen the unemployed football professional Kaepernick, the political symbol of US sports, as the face of its new campaign. And despite this explicitly political choice, the message that has now been put into Kaepernick’s mouth is also of a certain arbitrariness: “Believe in something. Even if that means you sacrifice everything,” the 30-year-old tweeted the advertising slogan.

On the other hand, the timing of this decision is anything but arbitrary and the election is of great political explosive power. On Thursday, the National Football League (NFL) starts the season with the duel of Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles against Atlanta Falcons. And the league is more divided than ever in the face of political protests against racism and police brutality, which began in the NFL with Kaepernick’s kneeling and raising a fist during the American anthem just over two years ago.

US President Donald Trump calls with unrelenting commitment for the exclusion of all protesters. The NFL has already criminalized political protest during the anthem. Kaepernick, on the other hand, who can no longer find a club as a quarterback and is suing the NFL and his clubs for illegal collusion, was confirmed last week by an arbitrator that there were signs of such an agreement. The responsible officials will soon be summoned.


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Of course, it’s about the image

Isn’t that a great commitment from Nike? Doesn’t a corporation that takes a stand against racism deserve the attention it notoriously craves? And don’t other initiatives of the company prove the sustainability of its social work? LeBron James, currently the best basketball player on the planet, has just been brought to Berlin as part of a promotional tour that supports social projects. One who has become a role model for many because of his commitment to equal opportunities and against Trump’s policies.

It would be naïve to ignore the fact that Nike would not focus on an image boost in its recently surprisingly politically accentuated campaigns, which should pay off monetarily. Earning from the good deed can be pilloried as a calculating instrumentalization. Conversely, you can also use this instrument used by Nike to check the company’s attitude for consistency.

Some questions arise. Why, for example, did Nike extend its outfitter contract with the NFL until March 2028? To what extent did the Kaepernick case play any role in the negotiations at the time? As a financier of the NFL, have you registered certain wishes, formulated conditions, and discussed possible exit scenarios?

In the summer, shortly before the World Cup in Russia, the sporting goods manufacturer announced that the Iranian football team could not be equipped for the tournament due to US sanctions against Iran. At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, however, the World Cup participant had been equipped with the same situation. How the company wants to develop its own clear stance on trade with questionable regimes, one could ask.

In view of the promotional tour with LeBron James for the socially disadvantaged, Nike could also ask when and how they want to treat their workers in Indonesia more fairly. And it would certainly be interesting to know what the company wants to do about the fact that management positions are predominantly occupied by men. Just do it!

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