Not long ago, Nike unleashed a controversial campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Many questioned Nike’s choice due to Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem a couple years ago, which had caused an uproar throughout the NFL and U.S.
Those in disagreement took to berating Nike on social media, some even cutting the Nike symbols off their clothes in protest. Others applauded the brand for taking such a bold stand that would obviously risk alienating potential customers.
From a marketing perspective, was this ultimately a smart move on Nike’s part? Below, we asked 13 members of the Forbes Agency Council to weigh in.
1. A Calculated Risk
Strictly speaking from a marketing perspective, Nike’s Kaepernick ad was an extremely calculated move — one that has, so far, resulted in over $40 million of media exposure. Nike knew it would risk losing some customers, followers and sales, but the short-term fallout would be far less than the long-term gain in brand loyalty. This was a very smart move for a large brand like Nike. – Vinny La Barbera, imFORZA
2. Knowing Your Base
Your product must have a purpose in order to differentiate itself. Nike has locked into its base and created a message that connects with them. Some people will be upset by the campaign, but this is great news for Nike. Those people are justifying why Nike’s base needs to defend the brand. In the end, this emotional response will help Nike’s brand create a deeper connection and, in my opinion, profits will soar. – Cheryl Myers, Smart Panda Labs
3. Understanding Consumer Trends
Nike did its homework and took a calculated risk. The brand knows its customer demographics and sees consumer trends shifting. Younger consumers buy into brands that have a purpose or mission beyond profit and are the future of Nike’s market share. Nike’s decision could also be a recruitment tool for other athletes who are disenchanted by the social missteps of other brands. –Anne Marie Malecha,Dezenhall Resources, Ltd.
4. Standing For Something
Nike realizes that its target demographic wants to stand for something and not go with the flow. Nike is aligning its business with people who are true to the brand, with athletes who stand out not only in sporting events but also in the social sphere. I think it’s a smart move to align its business with people who are challenging the status quo since that’s true to Nike’s brand values. –Lee Salisbury,UnitOneNine
5. A Global Strategy
I think the “Just Do It” ad featuring Colin Kaepernick will be a big boost for the Nike brand. Nike quickly received a huge amount of press worldwide as well as social media boosts from the controversial strategy. When you look at this from the point of view that Nike is a global brand, it is easy to see how this move will quickly increase brand loyalty in markets both in and outside the U.S. – Henry Kurkowski,One WiFi
6. No Press Is Bad Press
With this stunt, many outraged Nike consumers are tearing their clothes and sharing posts and comments all over social media. This means that, even though it’s not all positive, the apparel giant is gaining more recognition with free advertising all over social media. Plus, by causing an intentional debate, they are eating up all the press and creating loyal customers. – Andrea Keirn,Black Rhino Marketing Group
7. Authenticity And Innovation
Nike not only struck an empowering note but did so with a bold, aggressive move — one that authentically embodies its own iconic mantra, for better or worse. The decision hit every note the brand has been trying to hit for years and did so in a way that resonates with its target age demographic. Yes, it might alienate some consumers, but those were unlikely consumers to begin with. –Craig Greiwe,Rogers & Cowan
8. Commitment To Core Values
For Nike, the action that Kaepernick took aligns closely to its core brand values. Nike demonstrated its commitment to these values in a way that’s more powerful than any creative campaign. The brand stepped up, and for better or worse, showed consumers that it has the courage to pay more than lip service to things that may be profitable to believe in. – Darryl Mascarenhas,LivelyGroup
9. Making People Feel Something
There’s a fantastic quote by Maya Angelou that rings true here: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” No matter what side of the fence you’re on, Nike made you feel something with that campaign. It’s culturally relevant in a time when standing for something is imperative — for humans and brands alike. –Thomas Harding,Mish Guru
10. A Bold And Decisive Move
There’s only one word to describe Nike’s ad with Colin Kaepernick: genius. Nike’s latest move embodies what its “Just Do It” campaign is comprised of — being bold, decisive and doing what you believe while showing no mercy. It’s a great move to get more eyeballs on Nike and reinforce what the brand believes in. It’s emotive, and that’s what the best marketing campaigns need to be. –Sarah Tourville,Media Frenzy Global
11. Developing A Deeper Connection
Nike went beyond its comfort zone and took a bold stand on a deep purpose. And, although risky, this is a great attempt at developing a deeper connection with an audience who can relate to fighting for what they believe in. The days of authoritative conglomerates are coming to an end. Audiences today seek connections with companies that not only care about them but ones that share their values. –Ahmad Kareh,Twistlab Marketing
12. More Than Sports
Nike has taken a risk with this campaign and a calculated one at that. Nike knows that as much as the youth recognizes sports figures, the youth also values the current social commentary. So, Nike has taken a step beyond just the sports arena and applied its “Just Do It” slogan to ideals and perspectives, as well as athletics. I believe that, for its audience, it is a very smart move. –Bernard May,National Positions
13. The Right Message For An Inclusive, Global Audience
This was an easy risk calculation: The number of people, both in the U.S. and globally, who will respond positively to this ad vastly outnumber those who won’t. The angry voices are just louder, but this will be a sales boom for Nike. No one over there cares about a few haters cutting swooshes off their socks. They reminded their most important customers why they buy Nike to begin with. –Jamey Bainer,PACIFIC Digital Group, Inc.
Originally published on Forbes.