Kaepernick Nike Ad

Colin Kaepernick, the former pro-football quarterback, has become the face of Nike in a new controversial campaign that has aimed to leverage Kaepernick’s status as an anti-establishment, counter-culture hero of social justice. Kaepernick, who became famous for being the first to “take a knee” during the national anthem sung before kickoff, soon found himself unemployed by the NFL (an organization he thereupon sued for discrimination). By trying to draw attention to social injustice during a particularly turbulent time in recent years when the Black Lives Matter organization got underway in response to a rising perception of police assaults on the black community, Kaepernick became a pariah in the corporate NFL world. Nike, however, like many other professional athletes—from LeBron James to Tom Brady (ESPN; Sanchez)—has shown support for the message that Kaepernick was trying to communicate. Nike has even gone a step further and tried to capitalize on Kaepernick’s popularity among its target market and has thus featured Kaepernick’s face in full with the words “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” inscribed on the ad. The image that is being associated with the product being sold is the idea that Nike stands behind the black community, the marginalized community, and virtually everyone who opposes injustice and wants change. This position is especially popular among those who oppose the Trump Administration (which has taken a firm stance against kneeling during the national anthem). In short, Nike has entered into the realm of socio-politics by choosing a new kind of hero—one who is not just heroic on the sports field but who is also heroic in terms of standing up for social justice.

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The image of Kaepernick’s face in the ad teaches Nike’s target audience that Nike is a company that supports social justice. It also indicates that company has corporate social responsibility at heart and will lobby to make changes that will help bring about better equality in the world. The starting place is by showing support for a player who was cast out of the league because of a socio-political stance. I for one believe that what Kaepernick was fighting for is important, and I am glad to see a company like Nike get behind him rather than forget that he ever existed.

Thus, I believe the advertisement is effective in giving hope to the overall culture of America, even if it creates some initial division. There will be those who turn against Nike because they feel the company is supporting someone who does not show respect to the national anthem. However, Kaepernick was never out to disrespect America or the anthem. He knelt because he wanted to respect both—he also wanted to draw attention to the fact that America has lost its way. Standing out by kneeling down, Kaepernick has helped to create a conversation that needs to be had in America—and now Nike is taking part in that conversation by making sure it continues to be front and center of what we do in our daily lives. Nike wants every to think about the message that Kaepernick was delivering, the protest that is still ongoing, and the role that everyone can play in supporting a leader who vows to keep fighting not only on the field if given the chance but also off the field for all of us who care about social justice.

In conclusion, Nike is showing to its target market that it is okay to stand up for what you believe in, and that real heroes are the ones who are willing to make sacrifices and give up the opportunity to play the game they live because they realize a larger fight is looming in the horizon—and that is the fight they have to focus on now. This is not the first time Nike has promoted social justice (Green, Turner)—and it hopefully will not be the last.



Works Cited

ESPN. “LeBron James Tells Crowd at Fashion Show He ‘Stands with Nike’ in reference

to Colin Kaepernick Ad Campaign,” 2018. http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/24584276/lebron-james-says-stands-nike-reference-colin-kaepernick

Green, Dymond and Ashley Turner. “How Nike Turns Controversy into Dollars.”


Sanchez, Mark. “Tom Brady Appears to Publicly Support Colin Kaepernick.” New

York Post, 2018. https://nypost.com/2018/09/04/tom-brady-appears-to-publicly-support-colin-kaepernick/