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Survey says Nike’s brand image has dropped because of Colin Kaepernick ad

Morning Consult reports that Nike’s brand favorability and consumer purchase consideration have significantly sunk, but Nike is playing a long game.

Survey says Nike’s brand image has dropped because of Colin Kaepernick ad
[Photo: Thomas Serer/Unsplash]

A new survey by Morning Consult says that since Nike debuted its stunning new Colin Kaepernick ad, the brand’s favorability and consumer purchase consideration have significantly sunk. According to the survey, before the Kaepernick announcement, Nike had a net +69 favorable impression among consumers. That has now dropped by 34 points to +35 favorable. Before the ad, 49% of Americans said they were absolutely certain or very likely to buy Nike products, and that figure is down to 39% now.

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Another key point of the survey is that brand favorability didn’t only drop for folks you might expect to be red hat-sporting members of the MAGA brigade, but also among millennials, Gen Z, and African-Americans.

[Image: courtesy of Morning Consult]
The overall report is a result of more than 8,000 interviews conducted among American adults, including 1,694 interviews before the new “Just Do It” campaign launch and 5,481 interviews afterwards. Morning Consult surveyed 1,168 adults in the U.S. specifically about Nike’s ad and the decision to choose Kaepernick as the face of the campaign. There, 32% of those surveyed saw Nike’s ad as “mostly an effort to recognize Colin Kaepernick’s actions.” But 38% saw it as primarily a publicity stunt.

That last one may be the most important in the long run. After an initial drop, Nike’s stock is on working its way back up. The emotional, knee-jerk reactions of many will subside, and overall the brand will be stronger for being on the right side of history. Besides, as NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway tweeted yesterday, the American market is less than half of the company’s overall revenues. This was a calculated business move. But the key to its long-term success is whether Nike has the ability to prove it was one done with conviction and credibility.

As my colleague Liz Segran has pointed out, in order to become the progressive powerhouse this new campaign purports it to be, Nike first needs to get its own house in order when it comes to issues like its treatment of employees and workers, and environmental impact. She’s also right when she writes that brands could do worse than look to Patagonia as an example of a brand that lives its values.

Part of Patagonia’s charm is that it isn’t actually perfect, but much of its strength is in its striving to keep progressing. The outdoor retailer is transparent about mistakes, and quick to make corrective moves, like when it found out in 2015 that there was human trafficking happening in its supply chain.

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For Nike, this could be a defining moment. So far the brand is saying all the right things when it comes to its recent controversy surrounding the treatment of female employees. In terms of actions, it’s fired 11 managers, and is bringing in former Under Armour head marketer Adrienne Lofton as part of its executive shakeup. The Colin Kaepernick ad, and its ensuing media storm, has presented the brand with a golden opportunity, a starting point to prove that it can actually stand for something while selling you shoes.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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