A Digital Marketer’s Perspective on Nike’s Colin Kaepernick Ad

Ryan Larkin
By Ryan Larkin

Nike – they just did it. A few months removed from the release of their new ad titled “Dream Crazy” (more commonly referred to as the Kaepernick ad) we can reflect on a variety of occurrences after the fact. Did Nike lose fans from this ad? Yes. Was it controversial? Yes. Did it drive a record number of searches for the keyword [nike]? You better believe it.

Above is an logarithmic scale showing the weighted number of searches in the last 12 months for the keyword [nike] (from Google Trends). The week’s containing Black Friday & Cyber Monday were weighted at about 35 while the week of September 5th was 100. From a volume perspective, that’s insane.  

This video was uploaded to Nike’s YouTube account on September 5th 2018 and already has amassed 26,780,473 views – most of any video Nike has released on their YouTube channel (for reference, the next highest total view count is 15M).

Politics and ideology aside, this was a brilliant move by Nike. As soon as Nike published the video on their YouTube channel, CBS, NBC and every other major online news publication embedded the video onto their sites, thus amassing millions of organic, ad-free views. Think of all those remarketing audiences…

Sure, Nike lost some fans; but those fans were people who are buying one pair of Nike Monarchs every three years (look up what those are for reference and you’ll know the kind of people I’m talking about). The audience that Nike captivated is a younger, more vibrant demographic who are buying 4-8 pairs (or more!) of shoes a year. The math here is pretty easy to understand. And it shows; Nike sales have increased 31% since launching this ad which is 50% more when looking at the same time frame year over year. That’s the equivalent to billions of dollars in additional revenue.

Not to mention Q4 is now here, so let’s talk about those remarketing audiences again. Obviously Nike isn’t hurting for online ad dollars, but the data they can now leverage (assuming they had the correct tagging set-up to capture/cookie their audiences in a long enough time frame) is massive. Using these lists, they can target users who’ve watched their videos, visited their site, purchased their products etc. to blast a crazy high number of hyper relevant ads during Black Friday/Cyber Monday etc. I’m sure their online marketing team is pretty delighted with all the data they’ve been given (must be nice).

In closing, people are pretty polarized on the topic, but the decision seems to be sound. More people are searching for Nike. Even if those people are being taken to news articles, retailers or wherever, their brand is top of mind; and the data backs that this is the most search data in history for exact match [Nike]. According to Google’s data nearly 65 times the number of searches taken place on the week of Black Friday 2017 (let that sink in for a second). Nike dreamt crazy, and it’s paying off.

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Ryan Larkin is the Paid Media Technical Director at Power Digital Marketing who has 5+ years of industry experience. Ryan has spoken at several events including Media Leaders' Digital Growth Summit, Google's annual E-commerce event in Venice, and San Diego State's Entrepreneur Society's annual Conference in 2016. Ryan is currently focused on growing a variety of online paid media accounts and team members, with an emphasis on audience segmentation and shopping feed optimizations.