Should your brand take a stand?

“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

So said Colin Kaepernick in close-up, black-and-white videos, billboards and you-name-it when Nike launched its already infamous campaign this September.

The brand took a massive leap of faith when they elected to partner with Kaepernick, whose NFL career was cut short after he took a knee during the national anthem to oppose police oppression of African Americans. You know the rest.

The backlash from some corners against Nike was immediate. Twitter erupted with hashtags encouraging ardent patriots to boycott the brand and burn anything they own bearing the famous “swoosh”. While the company’s stock sunk overnight, and a month later sits about 12 per cent lower than before the campaign, their online sales saw an immediate 31% jump. Nike’s response was to stand back while cheeky, presumably fake ads bearing the Nike logo offered simple advice to those burning their products, such as “stand at least five feet away from the flame.”

The campaign is a confident – and immensely risky – way for the Nike brand to tell customers where it stands on a polarizing social issue. Their bet was that the positive publicity and strong brand allegiance amongst people who support Kaepernick and what he represents would more than make up for the fans they would lose. The jury is still out on the net effect, but one thing is sure: they gained hundreds-of-millions in brand exposure, and made it clear they’re willing to take risks – like athletes themselves. The campaign itself lives the ethos of the brand.

Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.

It’s a call to arms for brands to use their influence to support a cause that matters to them – and to their customers.

One can argue a company like Nike can afford to ruffle a few feathers. Can a small, local brand handle a backlash? I say yes – if your stand is genuine, the approach thoughtful and your support unwavering. Increasingly, consumers are more supportive of brands that weigh in on social and political issues, according to a study published in AdWeek in January.

Let’s use our powers for good. Even if it breaks some eggs.

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