Sportswriter Sally Jenkins, at the Washington Post — “Nike knows the future looks something like Colin Kaepernick”:
Kicks have always been political, and Nike has always sought to capture new generations with its use of intense color. This is a company that built itself on chroma-fluorescent blues and acetate volt greens. The Colin Kaepernick campaign falls in that category: It’s a transactional piece of advertising that seeks to hook into the vanguard yearnings and values of its buyers by using a surprising hue. If the campaign is important, it’s not as an act of corporate conscience, but rather as a reflection of coming American demographics, which Nike is always so good at identifying and signifying.
Burning shoes and flaming hashtags are not unwelcome at Nike. The viral images of swooshes on fire won’t bother the marketers who decided to use Kaepernick one bit. This is a company that has been losing ground to Vans and for the first time in a decade didn’t have the most popular shoe in America in 2017, surpassed by Adidas Superstar. What Nike always has been best at is staying ahead, and the risk of employing Kaepernick in a campaign is nothing compared with what it risks by falling behind. Here’s why:
Millennials, those Americans between the ages of 22 and 37, are projected to surpass baby boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation in 2019, and fully 44 percent of them are of some race other than white. For post-millennials, that number rises to 48 percent, and for post-post-millennials (American children under age 10), it grows to more than 50 percent.
These Americans are “very different than earlier generations” in a variety of ways, according to demographer William Frey, author of “Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics Are Remaking America.” They are more prone to interracial marrying, friendlier to immigration and often want their consumption to have a social component. If Nike is willing to offend its graying buyers in order to court these multiple generations with a racial justice campaign, “it’s a good bet that a lot of younger people will be attracted and go along with that,” Frey said.
Andrew McCaskill, senior vice president of global communications at Nielsen, puts these demographics in stark business terms. “If you don’t have a multicultural strategy, you don’t have a growth strategy,” he says…
Nike’s mentions on social media skyrocketed after news of the Kaepernick ad broke. In 24 hours, there were more than 2.7 million references to the brand, according to the analytic firm Talkwalker. And Kaepernick is just one small piece of what is apparently a much larger millennials strategy: Last year, CEO Mark Parker announced a new 12-city drive, as the company tries to become once again an entity that “obsesses the needs of the evolving consumer.” Among the target cities are Mexico City, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul and Milan, and the company projects 80 percent of its projected growth will come from metropolitan areas. Why? Because that’s where diverse, high-earning, younger people live…
No wonder Trump’s True Heartlanders(tm) are upset — the Great Commerce God has spoken, and its decree is: You rubes are no longer worth our attention.
If you plan on boycotting Nike I will dispose of all of your clothing items for FREE, just hit my DM’s. I have a school full of children that could use it here in Jamaica.
— Don DeAngelo (@thedonholly) September 3, 2018
People are getting rid of their Nikes? Can we make Colin Kaepernick the new face of the AR-15 too?
— Matt Fernandez (@FattMernandez) September 4, 2018
Jelani Cobb, in the New Yorker:
… Improbably, Colin Kaepernick’s social stature has only grown since his departure from the N.F.L. Last year, he was named GQ’s Citizen of the Year, and, in April, he won Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award. During a time in which he never set foot on the field, his No. 7 jersey outsold those of most active players. Last week, Kaepernick and Eric Reid, his former teammate, who participated in the initial protest with him, and who is also no longer in the league, received an ovation when they attended the U.S. Open. Serena Williams, who was playing her sister Venus at the time, said at a press conference after the game, “I think every athlete, every human, and definitely every African-American should be completely grateful and honored how Colin and Eric are doing so much more for the greater good.” Williams, a woman who has had to face racist and sexist attacks throughout her career, is also featured in the Nike campaign, as is LeBron James, the best basketball player in the world and a man whose intelligence the President of the United States has publicly insulted.
There was once a firewall that, at least in the eyes of the public, divided black athletes from the concerns of being black in the United States. That seemed to be how Michael Jordan felt, and also Charles Barkley, who, in 1993, during the siege years of crack and AIDS, said in a Nike ad that he was “not a role model.” That separation is no longer possible. The shoe burners feel that Nike has elevated a man of questionable motives and suspect patriotism. But their point is undermined by a different set of images and videos, detailing the final moments of Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and the nameless others who have died in similar circumstances. Nike gambled that a greater portion of the world understands where Kaepernick is coming from. At best, giants simply live up to expectations. Heroes need only live to tell the tale.
When it came to WNBA players wanting to get a fairer share of the pie, everybody suddenly was an economist. Now with Kaepernick, everybody is suddenly a stock market analyst and went to Wharton.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 4, 2018
— zellie (@zellieimani) September 5, 2018
So far, we’ve gotten Nike, Keurig, Harley, Levi’s, Hollywood, football and most celebrities.
They’ve landed Scott Baio and Papa Johns.
This is the best divorce mediation ever.
— The Hoarse Whisperer (@HoarseWisperer) September 6, 2018