Nike did it. Can you?

2018 will be remembered in advertising and branding circles as the year of Nike. Colin Kaepernick, the polarising figure, in NFL and across the nation, became the flagbearer for Nike’s 30thanniversary campaign. Although the campaign featured a host of other athletes including Serena Williams, Kaepernick was the lightning rod.


Traditionally brands have steered clear of anything controversial. And it seems, throwing caution to the winds, Nike has boldly run in to take sides. Social media was ablaze. And so where some of their products. But Nike stayed committed to its values. They were sure it was better to ‘Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything’, than staying silent.  


Nike is not the first to stand up for values. But it’s the first brand to do it. The smart people who run Nike, I’m sure have seen the writing on the wall. People have been standing up for what’s right ever more frequently in the past few years. Whether it’s the Me Too movement, or Idle No More, or the Never Again movement. The last was started by engineers, designers and developers in Silicon Valley – many of them working at Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft who have signed a petition not to participate in the creation of any targeted databases for the US government. It’s called the Never Again pledge, referencing the role of IBM’s punch-card technology in Holocaust record keeping.  According to a Fast Company article (The tech worker revolt) Google employees recently pushed back against a Pentagon project to use artificial intelligence on the battlefield. Google has announced it will not renew its military contract.


Standing up for what you believe in takes courage. Although seeing the benefits of taking sides, some companies may be considering doing a Nike. The question is, how many brands have such values built into their DNA? Nike has always been the challenger. 


If you’re a CMO are you willing to align with the values of your core base, assuming you haven’t defined your own brand’s values? Are you willing to believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything?