The beginning of Nike’s controversial ad features a teenage boy skateboarding on a rail and continuously falling onto the ground. It also references two young boys with no legs wrestling on a mat, a female Muslim boxer, a girl in a wheelchair dribbling a couple basketballs, and a Ghanaian teenage refugee playing for a national soccer team. These recurring clips inspire the audience to overcome adversity, and the hardships these individuals face show the audience that despite the challenges, anyone can be a champion. The commercial goes on to acknowledge the accomplishments of successful athletes such as Lebron James and Serena Williams who have overcome numerous barriers to become the best of the best in the sports industry. Using these public figures and ordinary individuals, Nike presents the idea that one can accomplish anything regardless of what their role in society is. In the middle of the advertisement, Colin Kaepernick vocalizes a phrase that becomes the center of attention and relates to the ethos, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” This statement references his original protest, and his choice to stand up against police brutality and other social injustices that resulted in him losing his place on the football field. Detractors believe Nike endorsed Kaepernick to invoke debate because in the business world, controversy sells. However, after being blackballed by the NFL, Nike gave Kaepernick a platform to voice his means of protest on a national scale. Kaepernick gives a voice to people who are marginalized and continue to face discrimination, adversity, and physical disabilities, among other things. Towards the end it is Colin Kaepernick’s voice and his image are shown to inspire individuals, appealing to the pathos, speaking the words “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy, ask if they’re crazy enough”. This quote encourages the audience to keep dreaming even if it doesn’t seem possible. Negative judgments often force people to question if their dream is worth pursuing. Those who face adversity feel as though the challenges they endure prevents them from accomplishing great things. Nike goes on to dispute these claims by using the aforementioned visuals of kids without legs and a woman in a wheelchair persevering through adversity which fills the audience with a sense of purpose, and motivation to not only pursue their goals in the face of opposition, but attack them.
The negative responses incited by Nike’s ad are a tangible representation of the emotional impact of the “Just Do It” campaign. Angry Americans across the country have been taking the situation into their own hands by burning and throwing away their Nike apparel to protest against the usage of Colin Kaepernick in their video. The #BurnYourNikes and #NikeBoycott hashtags have been demonstrated in the social media world to promote the rebellious actions of many individuals that disapprove of what this advertisement is endorsing. Some have pledged to take their business elsewhere, specifically to Nike’s competitors, Adidas and Puma. Others have gone out to Nike stores to buy their products just so they can burn it later on. In the light of these responses Nike’s share in the stock market plummeted but rose again following the release of the commercial. They continue to remain sports gear’s highest selling company despite the negative backlash. After all the emotion invoked by the advertisement, Nike and Colin Kaepernick received millions of dollars in revenue from the promotion of the ad and Kaepernick was granted a larger stage to protest.
The effectiveness of this advertisement is very significant and apparent as it implemented people who have been socially and physically challenged by society. Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice are lives that were taken from the world too soon due to the racial bias that poisons many communities all across the nation. There is complete unanimity between Nike and Colin Kaepernick as they joined together to address and, in a way, combat these social issues. Nike presents an inclusionary message to encourage individuals to pursue their dreams regardless of the personal or physical barriers that may stand in the way. By integrating the difficulties presented by missing appendages, destitution, and gender stereotypes in sports, Nike straightens the specifics of these deterrents. Rather, the company presents them as proportional character-building challenges, voicing that it takes hard work and determination to prevail. Nike connects with its young and older audience by using individuals of all ages to convey the encouraging message. By including ten-year-old boys who wrestle without any legs and run continuously on a dirt road, Nike appeals to the young generation of the world. They provide them with evidence that even people as young as eight or nine can achieve overarching goals in the face of all the barriers in their way. Referencing older, ordinary individuals while also implementing triumphant athletes inspires Nike’s older audience to never settle for less than what they deserve and to remain positive in the light of negativity. In an era of such exclusion and societal division, Nike and Colin Kaepernick generated both positive and negative attention aiming their focus on social equality. After the release of the advertisement, perhaps other high-profile companies will take a stand against issues that hold great importance.
Nike’s commercial encompasses numerous meanings that the nation and possibly the world will take into consideration. Social injustices remain intact because there is nothing being done about it. People who are socially disadvantaged aren’t being heard because they don’t have a voice to speak up against these issues. However, with their prominent social status, and bountiful resources, multi-billion dollar companies do.