According to AdWeek, Nike spent around $3.11 billion dollars on advertising in 2021. The company is well known for its Just to Do It campaign which features advertisements that target prominent social issues at the time. In 2018, Nike released an advertisement that featured Colin Kaepernick, who had peacefully protested against racism and racial injustice by kneeling at one of his NFL games during the National Anthem. The Fast Company Wrote an article on the way Nike has shifted its marketing plan to take a stance on social justice issues. Nike stands by their decisions of speaking out on racial inequality with Colin Kaepernick. Nike plans to use their brand to take a stance on social justice issues. This advertisement sparked major controversy with many people questioning if it is ethical for Nike to take a stance on such a controversial social issue. The first ethical issue is, is it ethical for Nike to advertise their stance on an issue knowing that they have a wide audience reach and an impressionable audience? Nike has a target audience of 15-40-year-olds, and teenagers are at a very impressionable age where they make much of their opinions based on who they look up to. In this way, Nike’s advertisement may hinder youth from developing their own stances on an issue, and Nike has a social responsibility to their audience to act ethically. Another ethical issue relates to if it is ethical for Nike to profit off of a major social issue as they did in this advertisement. Nike personally benefited from this issue and its popularity. Moreover, it could be argued that Nike would not have been able to know prior to releasing the advertisement that they would profit from it.
Nike has adapted their marketing plans to fall into the Golden Circle model from Simon Sinek. Sinek created the model for businesses to focus on the why with their purpose and moving out to how, and ending with what. Nike is speaking out on racial inequality because it is something that affects their athletes and the market to which they sell to. Nike is doing this by using Colin Kaepernick in their advertisements. Nike can use its notoriety to call for action. They can help others feel that they need to take action on something but it also raises awareness of social justice issues. Nike has an obligation to its consumer, partners, and employees. Nike has to provide its consumers with quality products and transparency. Nike is obligated to provide transparency and equal marketing to its providers. Nike is also obligated to its employees to provide them with a safe working environment and a fair working environment.
In 2018, much like many other brands, Nike decided to take an open stance on social issues in the United States. This was conducted using mainly an advertisement about the Colin Kaepernick situation that happened in the NFL. This was an example of Brand Activism that did in fact increase revenue and customers for Nike. In fact, from 2018-2019 Nike increased their sales by 31%. In addition to increasing their sales, Nike also created new consumers for their brand by taking this type of stance. It makes sense that Nike decided to take this stance because of the ages of their customer demographics (Gen Z and Millennials). So what chose Nike to weigh in on this issue? CEO John Donahoe said that the strategy behind choosing what issues to promote are only those issues that directly impact clients of Nike. This includes Nike’s athletes and shareholders who have an interest in Nike as a brand. Another question that could be made about Nike is, was it ethical for Nike to take an open stance on issues such as this one? Nike themselves have been accused of discriminating and mistreating their workers in the past and could be doing so now. According to an article by MarketWatch, on October 6th Nike asked their investors to vote against the company having to share their updates on their diversity efforts. Despite being pressured by activists to conduct a report. Nike has shown to their customers that they have a moral obligation as a company to society, but in instances such as this article and past events is this true?