The controversy surrounding Nike Inc.’s new Colin Kaepernick ad is a surprise to no one. And in spite of the backlash, it’s probably pretty good for the brand. In less than 24 hours since Kaepernick first revealed the spot on Twitter, Nike received more than $43 million worth of media exposure, the vast majority of it neutral to positive, according to Apex Marketing Group. That far outweighs the risk of alienating some customers, said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing executive at Baker Street Advertising.
The campaign is just the first step in Nike’s new partnership with Kaepernick, an extension of a deal he’s had with the company since he entered the NFL in 2011. The ad features his face along with the slogan, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Kaepernick hasn’t been on a roster since 2016, after he started kneeling for the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality in the U.S.
The company also knows its customers. Two-thirds are younger than 35, and it’s an ethnically diverse consumer base, according to NPD Group.
As part of the new campaign, the company plans to release a Kaepernick-inspired shoe and t-shirt and will donate money to the quarterback’s “Know Your Rights” educational campaign, according to the New York Times.
The quarterback is currently suing the league, accusing its owners of colluding to keep him out of the league. Last week an arbitrator said Kaepernick had enough evidence to take the suit to trial.
The NFL has responded by saying it is committed to “dialogue, understanding and unity.”
“The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action,” the league said in a statement.