Consumers Boycott Nike Over Colin Kaepernick Campaign, Still Might Be a Win for Nike

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Colin Kaepernick is an ex NFL quarterback and an activist, and he’s now the newest face of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign. Nike announced that Kaepernick is one of the athletes helping commemorate the 30th anniversary of the brand’s iconic slogan.

The ad features a black and white close-up of Kaepernick’s face with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” This is a reference to Kaepernick’s lawsuit against the NFL for allegedly colluding to keep the former San Francisco 49er’s quarterback out of the league over his protests (kneeling during the national anthem) against police brutality.

On Tuesday, just one day after the campaign was announced, Nike shares fell nearly 4% at one point and closed down 3.2%. Social media was blowing up about the campaign; there were nearly 2.7 million mentions of Nike over the previous 24 hours. The social media analysis firm Talkwalker said that this was an increase of 135% compared to the previous week.

The hashtag #BurnYourNikes has been trending the last few days as consumers are burning their Nike apparel, taking videos, and posting them on social media in a sign of protest against the campaign. The hashtag is even heavily populated among those mocking the performance, pointing out that destroying Nike goods that are already bought and paid for doesn’t actually hurt Nike’s bottom line. In fact, burning Nike products may inadvertently be advertising for the company.

Many think that Nike was foolish for this kind of marketing, but the widely-successful company knew exactly what it was doing. According to Vox, the company had Kaepernick under contract since 2011 and reportedly began negotiating a “new, multi-year pact” with him months ago. This all makes it pretty clear that Nike believes the rewards of sponsoring this ex-quarterback outweigh the costs.

In the United States alone, annual consumer spending on footwear is nearly $29.75 billion, and consumers aren’t going to stop buying shoes. There are many people who believe in the social justice issues Kaepernick is supporting, making them more likely to purchase a pair of Nike shoes in support of the campaign as well. Whether they’re detractors burning items they’ve already paid for or supporters indicating their approval by buying new items, Nike makes money on both.