By Carlo Versano
After picking former quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a face of its latest 30th-anniversary "Just Do It" campaign, Nike finds itself in a "no lose" situation, said Allen Adamson, a co-founder of brand consulting firm Metaforce.
That might come as a surprise to Nike investors, who saw shares slip on Tuesday by nearly 4 percent at their lowest.
A #NikeBoycott social media campaign prompted some customers to burn and destroy Nike apparel in opposition to the company's decision to use Kaepernick ー who ignited protests against police brutality and social inequality when he refused in 2016 to stand during the National Anthem. A recent NBC/WSJ poll found the issue is highly divisive even two years later; 54 percent of voters said that kneeling during the anthem is inappropriate.
In today's climate, word of mouth generated online is the currency that all brands want to collect.
"You can't buy it," Adamson said.
But companies can attempt to earn it with bold choices such as this one. Even if the latest publicity causes a dip in Nike's stock or a viral boycott, the risk is worth it ー especially if the brand is able to connect viscerally with a segment of its current or would-be customers, Adamson said.
"If you try not to lose any customers, you say nothing and become invisible," he said.
This is a smart, long-term play for Nike, which has always tried to be part of the national conversation, Adamson said.
"They need to stand for something beyond better sneakers."
The NFL, on the other hand, would rather talk about anything else.
In a separate interview on Cheddar Tuesday, Mashable's culture editor Marcus Gilmer said he was surprised by the announcement, since the NFL's 2018-2019 season will open on Thursday. And perhaps more strikingly, Nike has a new 10-year, $1 billion relationship with the league.
The NFL front office has shown it wants nothing more than to move on from the controversy. Kaepernick hasn't been employed by an NFL team for over a year now, and the league attempted in May to enact a new policy around National Anthem protocol. Policy revisions were shelved in July.
"They just want to shut up and stick to sports," Gilmer said.
For Nike, execs are betting that the Swoosh, one of the most recognizable symbols in the world, is strong enough to withstand a political scandal.
"Every marketer should be watching Nike to see what they do here," Gilmer said.
For full interview click here.