Nike's bet on Kaepernick continues to pay

Ted MarzilliCEO YouGov Direct
August 09, 2019, 10:01 PM GMT+0

Colin Kaepernick remains a big win for Nike.

Recently the former quarterback pushed back against the shoe maker for a planned line of shoes that featured a Betsy Ross flag and caused them to change course. The story using YouGov data first appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Kaepernick, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016, the season in which he began taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police treatment toward people of color, later became the face of a Nike campaign that spotlighted his protest for its bravery.

That advertisement caught YouGov’s attention in 2018. Our data showed why it was a perfect fit for the company. Even if Kaepernick and his kneeling protest was a polarizing issue nationally, it was a unifying one for Nike’s current and former customers.

The Wall Street Journal’s John D. Stoll said it this way: Race, the flag and protest make for the kind of volatile mix that companies have historically tried to avoid. But Nike’s young, male core customer in the U.S. has different expectations of the sports apparel company. By hiring the ex-NFL quarterback who led player protests during the national anthem as a spokesman last year, the apparel company essentially said Mr. Kaepernick’s views are Nike’s views.

YouGov and The Wall Street Journal looked at the data from the original September 2018 advertisement and compared it with the sentiment of Nike customers around the time of the Betsy Ross shoe controversy around July 4 and found not much has changed. The shoe brand’s customers still feel more strongly about Kaepernick than the rest of the country, and they still feel more strongly about companies that take a position on an issue.

Furthermore, like the article notes, Nike customers are as likely as ever to consider buying from the brand and intend to buy more shoes.