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How Nike is ensuring they’ll be on the right side of history with new ad campaign

KC Orcutt

 // Sep 4, 2018

To celebrate Labor Day with some unapologetic brand messaging, Nike unleashed their latest advertisement commemorating their 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign. The image, which has since taken the internet by storm, features an up-close, black-and-white portrait of Colin Kaepernick, accompanied by the slogan, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."

The message (and accompanying endorsement of the former San Francisco 49ers QB) is a powerful one, with the impassioned responses further showcasing how a portion of the United States still doesn't seem to understand what Kaepernick's protest is truly all about, while others are eagerly praising Nike for the move.

Kaepernick, who generated controversy after kneeling during the national anthem and sparking a national movement protesting police brutality and racial injustice in 2016, has been out-of-work from the NFL for well over a year now, recently scoring an early victory in his legal battle when the judge overseeing the case refused to throw it out after a motion to dismiss was filed in early August. As such, Kaep and his legal team are able to move forward in their complaint that the athlete has not been successful in securing a player contract (since becoming a free agent in March 2017) due to an alleged violation of Article 17, Section 1, the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA.

The ad campaign, which has been trending online for nearly a full 24-hour period and counting, has reportedly garnered over $43 million worth of media exposure, according to Apex Marketing Group. It additionally has resulted in Nike's market cap to fall, losing about $3.75 billion after the announcement went viral. On Friday (Aug. 31), Nike's market cap was $131.57 billion, and as of Tuesday (Sept. 4), that number is $127.82 billion, with stocks dropping nearly 3 percent.

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However, while the backlash is monumental (with folks dramatically cutting off the Nike swoosh on already-owned products, lighting their sneakers on fire and overall encouraging the hashtag #BoycottNike to trend), so is the support, with an outpouring of praise saluting the company. Many feel as though Nike's extended public support of Kaepernick is overall better for their legacy and brand image, even if the bottom line may be slightly impacted. As we're predictably seeing online, the latest installment of Nike's ad campaign has left some folks feeling alienated, claiming they feel they have no choice but to support their country over the league and now over their "one-time favorite" sneaker company. Regardless of which side football fans may fall on, back in March of this year, the NFL and Nike announced they had agreed to extend their longtime partnership for game apparel until 2028.

Nike's ongoing campaign features high-profile athletes, including Serena Williams, LeBron James, Lacey Baker, Shaquem Griffin and Odell Beckham Jr, with each image donning a fitting inspirational quote.

In the wake of the French Tennis Federation's decision to ban Williams' all-black Nike catsuit from next year's French Open due to a new dress code being implement, Nike voiced their support, kicking off the campaign with the message, "You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers." The shot of Williams in action was met with praise, paving the way for the conversation to continue upon the big reveal that Kaepernick was the campaign's next face.

As Nike dominates the public discourse this week, many feel as though the company's decision to make a powerful statement in its latest campaign will be remembered as being "on the right side of history," especially in a time where many corporations are choosing to sidestep political issues for fear of tarnishing their image. Nike clearly has had enough of playing it safe, with countless celebrities and recording artists, such as Meek Mill, Vince Staples, T.I., Snoop Dogg, Quavo, 2 Chainz, Bun B, Swizz Beatz and Wale, reposting the image and vocalizing their approval.

It's a big move for Nike to make but it's clear the team behind the sneaker giant is confident that the reward is bigger than the risk, especially when their overall legacy could be at stake if they remained silent. With Kaepernick's lawsuit entering its next stage and football season about to be in full swing, there's plenty more history to be made. Let's do it.

See some of the reactions to Nike's new ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, below.

7 up

A post shared by snoopdogg (@snoopdogg) on

Feel like Going to buy a pair right now!!! #USorELSE✊🏽 @kaepernick7

A post shared by TIP (@troubleman31) on

J U S D O I T 4 K A P ✊🏾 @kaepernick7

A post shared by QuavoHuncho (@quavohuncho) on

Respect ✊🏾 time to take things up! @kaepernick7

A post shared by Meek Mill (@meekmill) on

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