Shares of Nike stock fell more than three percent Tuesday, as calls to boycott the company trended on Twitter.
The backlash is in response to its latest ad featuring controversial NFL free agent, Colin Kaepernick. Nike selected the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback as the face of this year’s iconic “Just Do It” campaign.
Kaepernick made the announcement on Monday. The polarizing figure shared a photo on Twitter, with the quote “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
After Nike’s ad reveal, some customers have shared photos and videos online of them destroying their Nike gear in protest.
“Whatever statement you think you’re making by burning shoes is way more ridiculous than what you think Colin Kaepernick is doing,” Glenn Richard, a Nike supporter, said.
But, others are promising to stick by the company.
“For me, it’s just shoes. If you’re comfortable and you like them, then you wear them,” another Nike fan said.
According to Aaron Johnson, any kind of buzz you get for your brand, whether you are a small or big company, is going to sell more product.
And social media analytics confirm there is a lot of buzz surrounding Nike’s new ads. In the last 24 hours, the retailer has been mentioned more than 2.7 million times, on Twitter alone, according to the firm Talkwalker.
The controversy stems back to Aug. 2016, when Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem to protest injustice. That choice kicked off a controversial movement that drew the anger of many, including President Donald Trump.
On Twitter, President Trump criticized players who refused to stand for the anthem, suggesting they should be fired for “disrespecting the flag.”
But, Kaepernick stood by his decision, and said, "I think it's a misunderstanding the media painted this as I'm anti-American anti-men and women of the military and that's not the case at all.”
Now, Nike is standing by him.
While some brands may shy away from commenting on social justice issues, due to concerns it may impact their bottom dollar, one local expert said research shows the opposite is true.
“Today’s consumers want and expect brands to have a purpose, take a stand, and act ethically. Nike is a prime example of just that – and we have research that supports the company’s bold stance,” Kass Sells, President of WE Communications in North America said.
According to Kass, the company’s Brands in Motion 2018 global study showed that 74 percent expect brands to take a stand.
“While in the short term the payoff might not be clear, data supports that Nike is in it to win the long game," he said.
“Nike clearly understands today’s athletes, their consumers, and the shared expectations both have for the brand. We salute their courage.”
In addition to T-shirts and shoes designed for this campaign, the sports retailer is donating money to Kaepernick’s “Know Your Rights” social justice campaign.
On Tuesday, Nike released the following statement, "Nike has a long-standing relationship with the NFL and works extensively with the league on all campaigns that use current NFL players. Colin is not currently employed by an NFL team and has no contractual obligations to the NFL.”
Meanwhile, the NFL has responded with its own statement, saying in part, "We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities…The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action."
Despite Tuesday’s drop, Nike has had strong sales and earnings this year. Its stock is up nearly 30 percent in 2018.
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