This Week in Sponsorship…Nike Addition

On this week’s digest, we’re going to concentrate on the biggest news in sponsorship today. Nike and Colin Kaepernick. We’re sure you’ve already seen the poster, and perhaps even the goosebump-raising video, so we want to break it down for you. Letting you know why this is such big news in sponsorship. First of all…

Who is Colin Kaepernick?

Colin Kaepernick, 30, was signed by the San Francisco 49ers back in 2011 as a quarterback, however, didn’t become their star player until 2012 after the starter was forced to sit out due to a concussion. Kaepernick soon impressed the fans and coaches, and soon lead the team to several big wins. In 2015, a shoulder injury took Kaepernick out of action, leaving him on the sideline and his contract, unfortunately, came to an end with the 49ers in 2016.

Before Kaepernick left the San Francisco 49ers, he made an impact on more than just football, and I don’t just mean his famous tattoos. During a preseason game in August 2016, Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem as a form of protest. After the match in an interview, Kaepernick said “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way”.

Embed from Getty Images

His stand caused a lot of mixed reviews, with support and contentment from fellow NFL players, fans and even the one and only Donald Trump. Throughout the 2016 season many players ‘took a knee’ during the anthem to join Kaepernick’s peaceful protest, and have continued to do so to this day.

After Kaepernick’s contract with the 49ers came to an end in 2017, they did not sign him again and he continued through the season without a contract or a team. He has now filed a grievance against the NFL owners for collusion. The filing stated that the NFL “have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States”. It is reported that Kaepernick has enough evidence for this, that he could take it to trial if necessary.

How does this link with Nike?

Nike has been running the ‘Just Do It’ campaign since 1988. This campaign was used to move Nike from fitness clothing to fashion brand, aimed at males and females between the ages of 18-40. This ‘tough love’ campaign has attracted all sorts of high-end athletes over the years, in every type of sport, including Michael Jordan, Wayne Rooney, and Rafael Nadal. They even sponsored Colin Kaepernick at the beginning of his career with the 49ers in 2013.

As this year is the 30th anniversary of the Just Do It campaign, Nike wanted to make an impact. What a better way to do that by making an ex-NFL player who started a movement within the sport. A very controversial figure, with the potential of alienating some of its customers, as many NFL fans were burning Kaepernick jerseys as a sign of their own protest against him.

So, that is exactly what Nike did. Released last week, Kaepernick became the newest face of the Just Do It campaign with the quote “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything”.

Embed from Getty Images

The Campaign

The 30th-anniversary campaign was released last Monday (03/09/18) when Colin Kaepernick tweeted the now famous portrait image of himself with his quote. Since then it has received 368k retweets and 914k likes, but not all the feedback has been good. Take a look at this pie chart by Apex Marketing Group to see the overall impact;

media exposure for Nike Just Do It

As you can see, this pie chart shows that out of its $43 million in media exposure, the majority is positive/neutral with $10.91 million as negative. Some ‘former’ customers of Nike have even posted videos of them burning their Nike clothing and trainers, with others cutting off the iconic swoosh logo.

The poster was just the first step for this sponsorship deal, with a video released a few days later on the 5th September, which included many other strong celebrity faces, including Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, and Alphonso Davies, all of whom have done more than excel in their sport.

This sponsorship deal also involves Kaepernick inspired shoes and t-shirts, as well as Nike giving money to Kaepernick’s charity ‘Know Your Rights camps’, an educational program that teaches young people about education, being healthy and on how to interact with law enforcement.

Having Nike give money to a cause as part of their deal is huge news in sponsorship. The whole campaign is apart of social justice and not just about the branding or the clothes. It has become something bigger than that, and that shows just how much power celebrities really have on the world. Nike has always given back, with community grants and programs, but never as part of a sponsorship deal or to an athletes charity.

How does this affect Nike and the NFL?

Nike has been the main sponsor of the NFL, creating the official NFL uniform and sideline apparel, since 2012 and have extended their contract until 2028. They have never been one to hide from controversy, but it is still a little surprising that they have put themselves in this position, sponsoring both sides of the disagreement. Especially if Kaepernick grievance ends up going to trial, as I’m sure this will be a very public case.

Nike has been in the headlines for weeks. First with the controversy of Serena Williams catsuit at the French Open in May, and again at the US Opens for accusing the umpire Carlos Ramos of sexism, then for Rafael Nadal beating Dominic Thiem in an exhausting 5-hour match at the US Opens semi-final, and of course with Colin Kaepernick. Even though Nikes shares have dropped 3.2 percent, which is their biggest one day drop since April, Nike is targeting a new audience, who fight for social justice and we are big fans.

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