Written by Hayley Bromfield • Published 28th September 2018 • 3 minute read

We have all heard about Nike using the athlete-turned-social activist Colin Kaepernick in their recent advertising campaign, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Shortly after their launch, the brand published figures of online sales increasing by 31% in just four days, media exposure to be in excess of $100 million.

Whilst their stock might have taken an initial hit of 2.7% that certainly did not stop them. Now usually for a brand that’s a big deal to take such a hit but you need to look closer at the detail to understand the outcomes achieved.

In the following week, Nike stock investment from under 35’s grew by 45%, that’s 15,000 investments. Why? Because a recent study found that 86% of consumers believe companies should take a stand for social issues. Brands including Airbnb for their campaign #weaccept, Ben & Jerry’s taking a stand against climate change and Nike standing for #BlackLivesMatter made consumers sit up and listen.

Now you may have angered a few NFL fans along the way but were they really your local customer base anyway?

Nike has created a clever opportunity to reposition themselves in the market and attract a new demographic where social responsibility is at the forefront of their purchasing mind. And if you haven’t noticed, young people buy a lot of trainers.

So, the question is: Should we, as communications experts in this world, consider a similar effort for our brands? And what are the tactics we need to consider for success?

Buying a belief
Who in the world of communications wouldn’t want to master the art of cult branding? As humans, we often have an incessant need to be a part of something. To appear to have a fundamental need to be together or ‘belong’ and to find a common ground in this world we live in.

We must understand the concept of the term ‘cult’ as simply a collection of people who are devoted, committed and worship the same thing – usually a religion or belief system.
Brands can be harder to define as a ‘cult’ with a slightly more complex structure to define. For argument sake let’s say a brand is a ‘something’ (product, service, individual) that establishes them as ‘real’, ‘authentic’ and ‘different’.

The emotive Nike advert establishes a ground where you can be part of a change, part of something that is different. A movement of people all fighting for a relatable topic. This emotive drive has resulted in their outstanding sales growth and a brand messaging strategy that everyone is talking about. And not just because they’re turning 30.

Over the past few decades, consumer behaviour has evolved. The traditional marketing methods just aren’t enough anymore. Brands are having to shift their messaging and rethink what they communicate to their customers.

It is no surprise millennials and generation Z shop differently to their predecessors. For Millennials, brand authenticity is second only to loyalty discounts in importance when choosing companies to support.

Building brand authenticity is all about giving people a reason to care and well Nike, just knocked it out of the park.

Social conscious
For a global brand like Nike to make such a bold move and hire former NFL star Kaepernick who famously took ‘the knee’ during the national anthem in support of #BlackLivesMatter was a powerful statement.

The concept that a brand believing in something and being brave enough to stand up for that belief is setting waves in the consumer world for a new generation of social-conscious customers. It isn’t enough for a brand just to claim they support something they have to demonstrate their commitment, breathe it as an organisation and display their commitment.

Brands such as Pepsi have been slaughtered for claiming their support for social-political campaigns so we all what not to do.

It is simple to say Nike has just changed the landscape of communications and we are all ready to fall in line and follow suit.

Just do it? They did it.