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Nike is a major international sports brand who has always used famous sports figures to promote their brand. However, the use of Colin Kaepernick in one of its recent ad campaigns is different from its usual method of using athletes in promoting their brand or new product. If you look at the ad, you will realize there isn’t any product being promoted, it is just Colin Kaepernick, two sentences and the famous Nike logo aligned with its equally famous slogan; “Just do it”. Knowing what Colin Kaepernick stands for, why he isn’t playing football anymore, you are left dumbfounded as to why Nike would use him, why would they enter a polarizing political scene? It is debatable if Nike is placing a foot in the political scene, but you cannot argue that the use of Colin Kaepernick in this unique ad, based on Nike’s previous methods, is an extremely powerful ad.
Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL was a young and promising football player. After taking over the position from Alex Smith, a former first round pick, led the 49ers to a Super Bowl Final, was a rising star, an African American quarterback who was on the rise. However, Kaepernick was never able to live up to his potential, even losing his spot in 2016. In one of the preseason games, Colin was visibly seen taking a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner”, which caught the nation’s attention and was a talking point throughout the whole season. After the game, Colin explained why he took a knee, saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color”. As of now Kaepernick is out of the league, having trouble finding a new team.
The ad is simplistic in every way imaginable, but powerful nonetheless. The ad’s color palate is mainly a black and white color scheme, with Colin Kaepernick filling the whole image space. He is directly looking at the camera, or viewer. Under his eyes it says “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”. Most likely referencing him taking a knee during the national anthem and as a result having a grim chance of playing the league again due to teams not wanting to deal with the publicity. In addition, Nike could be seen sacrificing things too, as Colin’s protest is polarizing and nothing short of a risk financially. On the bottom of the ad appears Nike’s logo and its famous slogan “Just do it”. Colin’s face demeanor comes off as somber, somewhat as a person who is being oppressed and has had enough. Not entirely given up, but someone who is calm, a low-key confidence and optimism that his stance will inspire more people to join his cause. It is a stretch, but the black and white color scheme may represent the distrust and tension between the white and black cultures. Both Nike and Colin benefitted from the ad, Colin’s message was given exposure again and Nike gained $6 billion as a result. Even though no product was being sold, the brand was aligning itself with the side that approves of Colin’s protest. As a result, gaining more revenue in return, even if it meant losing customers who oppose Colin’s protest. Nike decided to align itself with a powerful message, even if it may have been a risk before running the ad, it sure did come out as a success for both parties involved.
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