Call me crazy or call me cynical. Nike’s new ad reeks of cynicism but they’re onto a sure thing

Nike’s new ad reeks of cynicism but they’re onto a sure thing

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this last week you would have seen the latest Nike advert featuring Colin Kaepernick, amongst other household sports names from LeBron James to Serena Williams.

Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. 

A tagline, and a message, which has been as divisive as I imagine Nike would have hoped. The stance that Nike are taking here clearly takes some balls, highly calculated and risk-managed balls, but balls all the same.

But hang on a minute. We can all see through this right? Do Nike really believe in anything? Are they prepared to sacrifice everything? Well they’re certainly prepared to sacrifice a significant proportion of their customer base. Although as calculated gambles go, alienating a segment of the population who burn their own shoes (whilst wearing them) is probably a sensible option.

Nike are, if nothing else, the smartest people in the room when it comes to marketing and they’ve simply done the maths here. They would have anticiptated the negative reaction, and the demographic groups they belong to, and projected that it they would be able to offset this with the positive growth from the target segments. For example, according to Nike’s stats, 18 to 34-year-olds comprise 30% of the U.S. population, but they represent a whopping 43% of Nike buyers. On the other hand, people 65 and older account for 19% of the population, but represent only 6% of Nike customers. Put simply, the people most likely to protest are outside of the company’s sweet spot.

The Nike advert draws my mind to some recent research we’ve done with Generation Z (18-24 year olds) in the UK. 

The rapid rise in social sharing and 24/7 news cycles is having a profound impact on how we digest information and to the extent in which ‘news’ is shaping our mindsets. This impact is being felt dramatically through the massive shift that is taking place within business and consumerism. A shift that is gaining momentum with each passing day. This is a shift in what it fundamentally means to be a ‘brand’ in today’s world. Specifically how the generation fueled by social media, and the generation that has grown up in a digital age, and an omnipresent world, sees the brands of today.

This could be seen as a challenge to many, but for some and specifically for those brands who are the innovators and disrupters, it presents a massive opportunity. So what is this shift and what is the impact? The phenomenon is known as ‘the glass box brand’

It used to be easy (didn’t everything!) back in the day for brands. How you wanted your customers to view you was down to your marketing department. Whatever you said on the outside (your advertising, your branding, your packaging) was how your customers saw you. You could manipulate them to believing that you were ‘The Best a Man Can Get’. However we don’t live in the world of black boxes anymore, every brand is now a glass box. Customers can see through to the core of the brand – it’s now not just about what you put on the outside but it’s about how you think and behave on the inside that really counts. How you treat your staff, your political stance, what you stand for, what your CEO says in public – all this and more has a profound impact on what your customers think of your brand and ultimately the extent to which they will engage with it.

These emotional and associational touchpoints that consumers have with your business are felt most strongly with those who have known nothing else than glass box brands. You can’t pull the wool over their eyes. This is how Generation Z value a business and it will be this way for ever more.

Don’t call me crazy. Just get used to it.

Click here for a FREE preview of our latest Generation Z report ‘Tomorrow’s Shopper Today’. For more details on how to get your hands on a copy, get in touch here.

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Blake Gladman

Hi, I'm Blake, Strategy & Insight Director at KAM. I look after all our research products and manage the collection and delivery of insight throughout KAM. I love long runs and good food (the perfect life balance).