Nike’s Bold Anti-Racism Stance Proves Problematic

branding agency Melbourne

A timely lesson for brands with a social conscience.

Global sportswear brand, Nike recently took a public stance to condemn racism, seeking to tap into the social tinderbox inflaming North America and spreading around the world. Adapting their iconic tagline, Nike created a campaign around; ‘Don’t Do It’ calling-out their brand fans to play an active role in changing a culture of racism that impacts the lives of so many people in the US and around the globe.

At first glance the brand strategy behind campaign seems like a bold, positive gesture from a brand with a huge following, a brand with the power and the responsibility to stand-up and be a force for change. However, with emotions heightened in the current environment, brands need to be evermore sensitive to the larger context in which they are ultimately perceived; as a link between business and consumer spending.

It turns out Nike have found themselves to be standing on rather thin ice, with their well intentioned campaign drawing negative reaction as well as positive. The youtube clip has been watched more than half a million times in four days (an impressive number) with more than 15,000 likes. But with more than 700 dislikes and 800 mostly negative comments, the campaign has drawn more than its fair share of negativity. With emotions running high and decades of painful injustice seemingly bubbling over, it is very easy to step-off the path of ‘support’ and into the realm of ‘cashing-in’. This is the case for broader middle class white society, but even more-so for brands who are seen by many as having no part to play in the public response.

The lesson for brands here is to tread gently and with caution before jumping into the fray when emotions are running high. Even with the best of intentions, brands can quickly find themselves re-positioned as part of the problem rather than as the positive, social force for change they were hoping.

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Truly Deeply is an Australian-based branding agency with 30 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. Our deep expertise is in the creation of high engagement brands that attract the attention of their audience and stand out from their competitors. We have a deep expertise working with corporate, retail, food & beverage, health and property clients. Find out more here
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