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Colin Kaepernick’s ‘Just Do It’ Nike campaign, explained

The launch, reception and ongoing campaign.

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Just days before the start of the NFL’s 2018 season, Nike announced that Colin Kaepernick would be the face of the 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. With Kaepernick still without a quarterback job and a collusion case against the league ongoing, the move achieved at least one of Nike’s goals: It got attention.

Some are applauding Nike while some are burning their shoes in protest. Others are hesitant about the use of Kaepernick’s activism as a marketing tool.

Here is everything you need to know about Kaepernick’s connection to Nike, which actually predates this campaign, and the fallout:

Colin Kaepernick’s protests began a movement in the NFL.

Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem as a way to raise awareness on social justice issues spread throughout the NFL in 2016. Kaepernick, despite playing at a high level, was released by the 49ers and has not been signed by a team, while dozens of statistically inferior quarterbacks have been signed.

Protests during the national anthem continue today, and Kaepernick is continuing with a collusion lawsuit against the NFL claiming the league conspired with teams to ensure he would not be signed.

Kaepernick was featured in Nike advertising back in 2015.

The relationship between Kaepernick and Nike is nothing new. As a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers he was featured as part of he “2015 Nike Tech Fleece Aeroloft Collection.”


Athletes being featured in clothing ads is old hat, but it establishes that Kaepernick had a relationship with Nike before the controversy surrounding his decision to kneel during the national anthem, and subsequent release from the NFL.

But the new “Just Do It” campaign was a surprise.

ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported on Sept. 3 that Kaepernick will be the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary campaign. He noted that Nike had been paying Kaepernick for some time, and waiting to unveil him as part of the campaign.

It’s revealed that the partnership between Nike and Kaepernick was so secret inside the organization that top-level business partners and retailers were not told in advance of the planned campaign featuring Kaepernick.

Is Nike seeing fallout? Sure, but it gained much more.

Following the announcement that Nike was using Kaepernick for the campaign the company’s share price fell 3 percent in early trading following Labor Day. Numerous groups called for a boycott of the company, including videos being posted on social media of people burning their own Nike products in anger.

President Trump tweeted that Nike was “getting killed with anger and boycotts,” however astute observers note that the market’s reaction to the news was significant, but will be short-lived.

Apex Marketing Group has estimated that Nike has gained over $163,000,000 in publicity value since announcing Kaepernick would be the face of the “Just Do It” campaign, with $49 million of that being negative publicity. In short: They gained far more than they lost.

In the last five years Nike stock has risen a staggering 167 percent. Moreover, pre-Fall drops in share price are common for the company.

In each of the last four years Nike stock has fallen between mid-August and early-October. The 2018 drop, which is being attributed to Kaepernick, is actually less pronounced than the three years prior.

  • 2015: 3.9 percent decline from Aug. 14 - Sep. 4
  • 2016: 15.1 percent decline from Aug. 26 - Nov. 4
  • 2017: 13.3 percent decline from Aug. 11 - Oct. 13
  • 2018: 2.7 percent decline from Aug. 31 - Sept. 6

By September 13, the company’s stock was closing at all-time highs:

Here is Nike’s first ad starring Kaepernick.

How are other athletes reacting?

Cam Newton said: “I’ve always respected the man that Colin is. I have said that since Day 1.”

The ad has also seen its share of parody across the sports world as well.

And we’re going to see a lot more.

Nike already has plans to air the ad on NFL Opening Night, which is a bold move. Nike is the uniform sponsor of the NFL, and predominantly featuring an athlete involved in an ongoing lawsuit against the league is unprecedented.