Why risk it with a campaign like this?
Consumers want to feel represented by companies they buy from. They want to feel seen and understood, so that their specific consumption needs can be met. Advocating for a social cause can be a way of reaching out, and allowing consumers to identify with the company. Nike’s campaign can be noted to be in line with an inclusive marketing strategy, targeting those consumers who feel underrepresented and whose consumption needs diverge from the mass markets. In a way you could argue that with such a fractured modern society, every sub group feels under-represented; is this campaign for all of us?
In a recent industry report for the footwear industry, it is highlighted that especially millennial consumers are increasingly concerned about sustainability and social responsibility. Therefore it is not particularly surprising that the target audience for Nike’s newest campaign has been set to be the new generation of athletes, more specifically, consumers between the age 15 and 17. Even outside the sports industry, the young generations have been described as the “activist consumers”, illustrating that corporate values play an even bigger role in purchasing decisions, thus incentivising companies to advocate for a relevant and timely cause.
Does it work? Examples from other cause-related marketing campaigns:
Taking a stance on a social issue or raising awareness on social injustice is not a new phenomenon. For example Benetton has a long history of producing strong and even shocking ads to point out social injustices. By taking a point of view on these issues, the campaigns aim to raise awareness and encourage action. Benetton has taken a stance on a variety of social issues, including violence and hate speech with their UnHate campaign in 2011, violence against women with together with UN Women in 2014, and most recently, EU’s Mediterranean Migrant Crisis in 2018.
Besides just pointing out injustice, cause-related marketing campaigns can drive a real behavioural change. A successful example of this can be noted to be Sport England’s This Girl Can -Campaign in 2015 that got 1.6 million women exercising, and thus made notable progress towards closing the gender gap present in sports and exercise.
In addition to tacking social issues, companies are also taking direct political stances. For example the jewellery company Tiffany & Co. have directly called our President Trump for his policies towards climate change, while Apple and Facebook have voiced their opinions against Trump’s immigration bans. Even in the UK, brewing company Tennents have taken a stance towards Trump with their Tiny Cans For Tiny Hands campaign on social media, which was timed perfectly for his visit in Scotland last Summer.
Overall, it can be argued that Nike’s recent “Just Do It” campaign is a subset of a wider change driven by consumer activism and demand for corporate social responsibility. Nevertheless, you can’t accuse Nike for lacking courage, as it can be argued that taking a stance on social justice issues with Kaepernick, and the other featured athletes is a bold move.
As Maya Angelou once said,
“I believe that the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare.”
― Maya Angelou