Nike Actually Did the Right Thing

For all the naysayers out there who think that Nike dropped the ball with the Kaepernick campaign, just check out Nike’s stock price in recent weeks. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not talking about anything that is sports, law enforcement, patriotism or social justice related. I’m specifically referring to Nike’s ability to engage an ideal, targeted audience.

The biggest hurdle that business owners fail to clear is the misconception that they are part of the same audience they are trying to acquire. Judging by the reaction that people the world over had to Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign, many people had just as big of a misconception. If a consumer isn’t actively engaging with a business, and if the likelihood that they will is low, are they really part of an ideal, targeted audience? No.

Those of us in the advertising realm completely understand what its like to create comprehensive campaigns targeting an audience with whom we can’t relate. Just look at a few of the fields my current stable of clients reside in: daycare, high end female-centric products and services, legal, politics, manufacturing and franchise sales. These clients will all attest that they are getting their money’s worth from our direction and creativity, even though I will most likely never be one of their loyal consumers (especially not legal, knock on wood).

Does your town have one of those haunted buildings right along a busy road, where business after business opens up and then closes after a year or two? I can guarantee that there are a number people who look at the new business and think, “I wonder how long THAT place will stay open”. However, others look at it and think, “I’ll bet if I had a business in that building, I would be successful”. The second group probably subscribes to something I call Hot Dog Economics.

An entrepreneur who loves hot dogs might be motivated to sell hot dogs since he knows what tastes good and what doesn’t. A hot dog can potentially have high margins, since the cost to construct and sell a “fully invoiced” hot dog is very inexpensive. Add in a low rent location with high traffic and that entrepreneur knows he will be sitting on a gold mine. The only problem is that he doesn’t really understand that his ideal, targeted audience needs to be large enough to consistently spend money at his location, cover his expenses, and make a profit better than minimum wage. Oh, and don’t forget that the elusive hot dog lover is just as likely to pay half as much at a local gas station.

The team behind the recent Nike ad campaign was brilliant because they were able to 1) tap into an audience who is already engaged with the brand and who were also 2) influenced positively by the events surrounding the protests started by Mr. Kaepernick. Nike’s creative teams relied on specific metrics and buyer data points that supported potential campaign success before they ever decided to risk alienating a wide swath of shoe buying customers. Assuming that Nike wasn’t prepared for the backlash from people not emotionally tied to their brand is foolish. Besides, any press is good press, right?

The next time that you see an advertisement that provokes emotion deep within you, ask yourself, “Who they are delivering that message to and why?” You just might be watching a commercial with Colin Kaepernick. Eating a hot dog.