US Insights

Nike's Kaepernick Campaign Boosted Brand Equity

Kate Ginsburg

VP, Product Marketing & Innovation

Brands 09.28.2018 / 09:00

The impact of the Kaepernick campaign is, and will continue to be, significant.

Nike’s ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick ignited both controversy and sales, but will it have a lasting impact on the Nike brand? Kantar Millward Brown developed a full-scale research study to get a complete understanding of how Americans feel about the campaign and, perhaps more importantly, how that has informed their impressions about Nike. Preliminary findings indicate that the impact of the Kaepernick campaign is, and will continue to be, significant.

The campaign made an immediate impact. Shares of Nike closed at an all-time high less than weeks after the ad was released. An analysis of social media activity conducted by Kantar Media showed how explosive the reaction was. When news of the signing broke on Sept. 3, Nike was mentioned in more than 1.7 million social media posts globally. As the debate grew, so did the posts, rising to almost 4 million daily posts – seven times more mentions than Nike would experience on a typical day. For each of the next seven days, Nike was mentioned in more than one million posts as the story trended worldwide and Nike’s TV commercials were broadcast around the opening weekend of the NFL season.

Kantar Millward Brown has used its Link methodology to assess longer term impact of the campaign. LinkNow allows marketers to test TV advertising in as little as six hours to determine their strength. Testing determined the Nike creative was strong overall, though there was variation in reaction by age. The spot scored in the top 15% of ads on Power Contribution, Kantar’s metric of long-term share growth. It also ranked in the top 10% for distinctiveness and enjoyment.

Nike Equity Take2

When examining the intuitive emotional reaction to the spot through facial coding, viewers particularly liked (increased recorded smiles) when Kaepernick notes, “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” and “don’t ask if your dreams are crazy,” showing how these scenes have a stronger emotional connection.

Nike Smiles Take2

Gut Response: “Inspirational,” “Motivating,” “Empowering” but “Risky”

Next, Kantar leveraged Firefly’s innovative Spotlight solution which taps into consumers’ real world, gut reaction response to ideas through the power of video-capture. The team interviewed 16 Middle American men after watching the ad and they frequently recognized the spot was “inspirational,” “motivating” and “empowering.”

The data shows the ad could change some opinions. Here, noted by Alex, a 31-year-old Caucasian male, “At first, I was never really on Colin Kaepernick's side, but after really watching this, […] it really did kind of make me see it through other people's eyes, and him in particular. It really made me feel like just doing the best for yourself, don't try to hold yourself to other people's standards, but make yourself be the standard.” This is not about Nike taking a political stance, what it comes down to is Nike really understanding its audience and what is important to them.

The creative shows strong potential for building Nike’s long-term equity. Could other brands start down this avenue with similar impact on their long term equity? Audiences seem to think so, however, they must also recognize the move is risky. Brice, a 26-year-old African American man reported it could “bring a powerful change,” while Patrick, a 38-year-old Caucasian man noted, “it gets a conversation started. It gets people talking. It gets people more involved in the issue.” But, as a 26-year-old Hispanic male stated, there will always be “people being happy and people definitely being really mad.”

The full study will be released by Kantar at an upcoming industry event.

Source: Kantar Millward Brown

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