Alvarado: Nike Ad Controversy


Matt Gubler

Photos of Nike shoes on a grill on September 19th 2018. (Photo by Matt Gubler / Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Andrea Alvarado

Nike’s new ad campaign is powerful. It feeds the viewer with promises of success and a better future in times where negativity is a looming force in our everyday lives. Their “just do it” motto appears to carry a stronger meaning in today’s political climate. It does not come as a surprise that controversy has risen from this campaign.

Nike is aware that the United States’ current presidency has created a profound division through the nation to the point that every action the company could make is bound to be turned into some political statement, by both Democrats and Conservatives. It almost seems as if the American public has become paranoid enough to suspect an ulterior motive to every corporate event. In this case, Nike opted for an explicit political statement that is impossible for the viewer to overlook. Perhaps because the public will inevitably shove the campaign in favor of one side of the aisle or the other, the company has decided to control its narrative and thus ensure its profit.

Brands and companies are now capable of being political. Perhaps it is because of the fact that our own president is filling up his pockets by exploiting the fears of the American public that we have begun to perceive companies’ profits as politically affiliated. This business model has long been employed by gun manufacturers that continue to hide behind the NRA, however. They have politicized their products in order to ensure steady revenue by promoting the notion of “gun control” as unconstitutional and inciting fear of government overtake. Similarly, Nike is exploiting the popularity of progressive ideals and demands for equality to encourage their viewers to buy another pair of sneakers.

If Nike truly intended to demonstrate support for the movement that Colin Kaepernick represents, their ad would have given some backstory. There is no explanation in regards to what Kaepernick is advocating for. The ad does not attempt to raise awareness of police brutality against black people and the meaning of the Black Lives Matter movement. On the contrary, it only adds to the ignorance of those criticizing Kaepernick. That is expected since the last thing Nike would want to accomplish is alienating potential buyers. Therefore, the ambiguity of their campaign allows them to cater to the growing political progressive population of America.

Despite the countless boycotts that MAGA followers have attempted against “liberal” companies, progressive ideals are still the most profitable. Trump has incredibly low approval ratings so far in his term, and he is even more disliked outside the U.S. As companies go under fire for racist, sexist and discriminatory practices, Nike’s marketing strategy is smart. After all, Nike’s stock value continues to rise as Trump’s administration seems to be stuck in a downward spiral. However, Nike’s political statement is hollow at best. They remain the official sponsors for the NFL — the same organization that forced Colin Kaepernick to sacrifice everything. If Nike truly believes in Kaepernick’s peaceful protest, the company should “just do it” and drop the sponsorship.

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