7 ways and 7 pics to evaluate Nike’s Kaepernick marketing campaign

Nike’s Kaepernick campaign earlier this month has seen lots of ink, including evaluations by marketing professionals such as myself. Integrating all these perspectives, I offer below 7 ways to evaluate the campaign from a marketing point of view, 2 conceptual and 5 empirical.

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Conceptually, what does the marketing concept tell us about it?

  1. Is the ad in the (short-term) interest of Nike’s customers? Yes, for most customers at least. It is well documented that Nike’s customers don’t just desire good sport shoes and apparel, they demand a higher brand purpose. Nike has consistently answered that call in the past and does so in the current campaign (https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/405218-nike-notched-a-marketing-checkmate-with-kaepernick-choice).

Indeed, Nike customer like it more than the general public when brands take stance on social issues and Kaepernick is more popular among Nike customers than among the general public (YouGov, September 2018)

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2. Long-term marketing concept: but is the campaign in the long-term interests of the customers and of society? According to the analyses by Engagement Labs and by Michael Wolfe (see points 4 and 5), this ad was highly polarizing – possibly the most in recent advertising history. Whether this is good or bad depends on your belief in the importance of the cause.

Empirically, how to evaluate the results for Nike?

3. Earned Media: Free Coverage: Nike was mentioned in more than 1 million social media posts a day since news of the campaign broke on September 3rd – compared to less than 600K typical daily mentions (https://www.kantarmedia.com/global/thinking-and-resources/latest-thinking/examining-the-earned-media-impact-of-nikes-new-campaign)

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4. Word-of-Mouth Conversations: Engagement Labs shows a strong increase in the volume of both online and offline conversations about Nike in the 2 weeks following the Kaepernick ad. Brand sharing, i.e. sharing of Nike’s posts, increased 1,260%. Compared to the previous 3 months, online volume increased 477%. The ratio of those conversations that were positive stayed about the same at 33%, but negative conversations increased from 9% to 31%. As in February’s gun debate involving Delta, Metlife and Dick’s Sporting Goods (https://www.engagementlabs.com/news/social-media-myopia-brands-miss-gun-debate/), offline conversations shifted less in % terms (16%), but strong in volume (13.5 million more conversations per week). The offline conversation is still mostly positive at 79%, down just 1%. Negative conversations have increased slightly from 13% to 15%. Detailed demographic data shows that it was not African Americans that talked more about Nike– instead it was women over 18. While both Republicans and Democrats talked more about Nike, independents shied away from the conversation. Regionally, the South had the majority of conversation with a share 52.3%, up from 43.8% and more than all the other regions combined.


Thus, it all depends on what Nike was looking for: while online net sentiment is down sharply and offline sentiment some, the number of positive conversations is up, both online and offline. As many of the negative conversations occur among non-customers, sales may not suffer and even increase due to the campaign. Moreover, Engagement Labs point out that Nike increased its share of positive conversations in the athletic apparel category, thus crowding out competitors (https://blog.engagementlabs.com/nike-kaepernick-campaign-turns-both-online-and-offline-conversations-negative)

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5. Engagement and Brand equity: Reflecting the conversations data, Michael Wolfe shows that ad copy effectiveness and engagement ratings drop with age (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/nikes-colin-kaepernick-ad-insights-its-impact-michael-wolfe/) with high “ad dislike” scores among the older age-generation segments

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Purchase Intent jumps for Millenials +2X the average of all viewers of the ad (Wolfe).

6. Sales increased online by 31% (http://time.com/5390884/nike-sales-go-up-kaepernick-ad/) and Nike saw a 61% jump in sold-out items (http://lipperalpha.financial.thomsonreuters.com/2018/09/nike-ad-spurs-61-rise-in-sold-out-items/) but we don’t know yet whether this is caused by the ad. I am happy to perform my formal attribution and marketing mix model once Nike shares some detailed time series data.


7. Stock price: Nike’s stock price and market capitalization were $ 79.6 ($127.4 Billion) on Tuesday September 4th and $ 84.72 ($ 135.6 Billion) on Friday, September 28th. This increase of 6% (or 8.2 Billion) is in line with the full year’s trend though, so tough to attribute to the ad. Much other news is going Nike’s way this year.

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In sum, my professional evaluation is positive on the marketing concept, earned media, brand equity and the volume of positive conversations, negative on net sentiment, and a question mark on the long-term marketing concept, sales and stock price. What is yours?


2 thoughts on “7 ways and 7 pics to evaluate Nike’s Kaepernick marketing campaign

  1. Pingback: Most viewed marketing analytics blogs of 2018 | Smarter Marketing with Better Results

  2. Pingback: Gilette: the best a purpose ad can be? | Smarter Marketing with Better Results

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