When Nike partnered with the American football player and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick for their “Dream Crazy” advert in 2018, the divisive move initially caused Nike’s share price to fall by 2%. People boycotted the brand, burning sneakers and cutting Nike logos from their clothes in protest at the brand’s support of what was viewed by some as Kaepernick’s unpatriotic refusal to stand during the American national anthem.
Nike, like Kaepernick, took a firm stance against racism, using its “Dream Crazy” advert to prove that the brand was serious about promoting and defending its ethical values, despite knowing that those same values could potentially lose them customers.
However, the campaign wasn’t just about doing the right thing. Nike was also quick to recognize that the Black Lives Matter movement, and Kaepernick’s actions in particular, presented a significant commercial opportunity to shift their brand strategy. With current research indicating that 59% of people are more loyal to brands that stand for diversity and inclusion in online advertising, you can see how far-sighted Nike’s decision was at the time.
“Dream Crazy” COURTESY OF NIKE
Nike took a moral stand, not simply because it was the right thing to do, but because the team realized that doing so would align the brand with growth opportunities in key areas of the US. Significant demographic shifts had created an increasingly affluent, empowered, and taste-making Black middle class – with a handy sneaker obsession. Nike gambled that the net gain in sales made in diverse cities like Atlanta would outstrip any lost sales in other areas, and in the end, the gamble paid off. The “Dream Crazy” ad has now earned over $6 billion for Nike and also gained the brand its third Emmy Award.
It’s worth noting that Nike identified inclusivity as a competitive advantage well before the BLM bandwagoning of 2020 – and it was the brand’s prescience in establishing trust with a wider group of metropolitan spenders in the mid-2000s that enabled Nike to become a respected and trusted voice on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). For Nike, taking a moral stand when it did not only demonstrates the brand’s intelligent anticipation of cultural trends, but even more significantly shows the importance of companies doing what they believe to be right and applying an inclusive mindset. Even if it takes the rest of the world some time to catch up.
We know that being inclusive is right from a social standpoint, but Nike’s work with Kaepernick also demonstrates the inarguable business benefits of being more socially conscious. The “Dream Crazy” example proves beyond doubt that DE&I is about more than social responsibility for companies; it presents a valuable opportunity that many traditional brands are missing out on by failing to identify the wider commercial benefits of a more inclusive growth strategy.