Don’t Burn Your Nike Sneakers (And #BoycottNike Explained)
If you utilise any social media platforms, chances are, you’ve seen Nike’s latest ad as part of its 30-year long “Just Do It” marketing campaign. And just in case you haven’t, here’s the commercial that sparked a firestorm on social media:
What’s the big deal with this ad? Who is Colin Kaepernick? And why are people boycotting Nike? Should you burn your Nike sneakers too (the answer is no, by the way)? Read on to find out…
Nike’s “Dream Crazy” Ad
Last week, Nike released a commercial as part of the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” campaign. The 2-minute video features household names like LeBron James and Serena Williams, as well as inspirational individuals like:
- Alphonso Davies, the youngest soccer player for the Canadian national team (who will join Bayern Munich in Jan 2019)
- Charlie Jabaley, an Ironman who lost 120 pounds (54kg) and overcame a brain tumour
- Isaiah Bird, a wrestler who was born without legs
- Ibtihaj Muhammad, a Muslim American Olympic fencer
- Lacey Baker, the first queer woman on Nike’s skate team
- Megan Blunk, a US Paralympian in wheelchair basketball
- Michigander Alicia Woollcott, a linebacker who was named the homecoming queen
- Shaquem Griffin, a one-handed Seattle Seahawks (American football) rookie
The premise is that these individuals had to overcome challenging circumstances, great difficulties, and personal handicaps to perform and compete at the highest levels in their respective sports. Some have even gone on to champion social causes, defy society’s expectations, give back to the community (LeBron opened a public school in Ohio), and have ignited debate regarding controversial issues.
The ad is narrated by Colin Kaepernick (more about him in a little bit) and it goes like this:
“If people say your dreams are crazy; if they laugh at what you think you can do. Good. Stay that way.
Because what non-believers fail to understand is that calling a dream crazy is not an insult. It’s a compliment.
Don’t try to be the fastest runner in your school or the fastest in the world. Be the fastest ever.
Don’t picture yourself wearing OBJ’s jersey. Picture OBJ wearing yours.
Don’t settle for homecoming queen or linebacker. Do both.
Lose a 120 pounds and become an Ironman, after beating a brain tumour.
Don’t believe you have to be like anybody, to be somebody.
If you’re born a refugee, don’t let it stop you from playing soccer for the national team – at age 16.
Don’t become the best basketball player on the planet. Be bigger than basketball.
Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.
When they talk about the greatest team in the history of the sport, make sure it’s your team.
If you have only one hand, don’t just watch football. Play it. At the highest level.
If you’re a girl from Compton, don’t just become a tennis player, become the greatest athlete ever.
Yeah, that’s more like it.
So don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough.”
The Controversy Surrounding Colin Kaepernick
For those who don’t pay attention to the National Football League (NFL) and to American politics, you’re probably going:
Well, here’s why the video divided the American public.
Colin Kaepernick was a former quarterback who was ousted from the NFL two years ago after he began sitting (and later kneeling) during the American National Anthem. He started doing it as a peaceful protest against police brutality and racial injustice in the USA, and it quickly spread across the league.
His actions caused a kneejerk reaction by the NFL that tried to implement new rules governing athlete conduct during the anthem. It also provoked the ire of Americans who see Kaepernick’s gesture as being unpatriotic and disrespectful towards the men and women who fought and died for what the American flag is supposed to represent.
Here, “sacrificing everything” most likely references the “end” of Kaepernick’s professional football career as NFL teams have allegedly colluded to keep him out of the league.
The fact that Nike chose Kaepernick, to headline the 30th anniversary of the brand’s iconic slogan, has understandably polarised the American public.
After the release of the ad, Republicans and conservative schools have threatened or already boycotted the sportswear titan. Others have taken to social media to express their disappointment by cutting Nike’s logo out of their clothing or setting their Nike sneakers on fire.
Why Nike’s Ad Works
Nike ads have always been visceral. They’re simple, effective, and speak to the heart.
But more than anything, this “Dream Crazy” ad works because it actually says something.
Rather than skirt around controversial issues, Nike has chosen to wade fully into this racially and nationalistic charged debate to make a bold statement. In a world where companies have come to mean more than the brand that they are, Nike is declaring that they are not afraid to take a stand.
It’s also important to note that Nike is a brand built on rebellion.
From the banning of Michael Jordan’s sneakers during the 1984/1985 NBA season to LeBron’s refusal to “shut up and dribble” after a Fox News host asserted that it’s “unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball”. Nike’s products and endorsed athletes have always been unafraid to push boundaries and challenge the status quo.
As a result, Nike’s brand purpose resonates on a deeply personal level, especially amongst athletes and individuals chasing greatness.
On top of this, the brand has also been a supporter of causes that reflect its values. Correspondingly, Nike has created products that celebrate the minority, fund notable charities and causes, and inspire greatness in the ordinary. Some notable examples include:
Nike Kevin Durant 10 “BHM”
Released as part of the 2018 Black History Month collection, the date (6 Jun 2014) is a reference to the day Kevin Durant gave his Most Valuable Player (MVP) speech. In his speech, he reflected on his meagre beginnings and credited his mother for making him who he is today. The speech was also of significance as it focused more on the community than his personal accomplishments.
Air Jordan 7 Doernbecher x Damien Phillips
This pair of sneakers was designed by OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital patient, Damien Phillips, who suffers from haemophilia severe A (a severe bleeding disorder). Proceeds from the sale of sneakers and merchandise created in collaboration with the hospital have raised $14 million (as of 2016) to support clinical care, purchase equipment, expand research, and help cover the cost of medical care for families in need.
The “Equality” T-Shirt
The apparel was released as part of Nike’s EQUALITY campaign which focused on the power of sport to inspire and uplift.
What Critics Have To Say
Cynics have pointed out that Nike’s marketing team has studied the potential fallout, and that this was a calculated move to appeal to a new, younger customer base.
Some have even gone as far as to say that Nike appears to be selling a clichéd fantasy that people should “sacrifice everything” in order to become the next LeBron James. However, the hard truth is that athletes like him are one in a million.
And if you look at it with a patriotic lens, Colin Kaepernick may have sacrificed his career to shine a spotlight on police brutality and racial injustice. But former NFL player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman made the ultimate sacrifice while serving his country in Afghanistan.
However it’s also worthy to note that in 2017, Tillman’s widow has asked for people to not bring her late husband into the conversation regarding the protesting NFL players, as the “very action of self-expression and the freedom to speak from one’s heart – no matter those views – is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for“.
In a time where social media encourages performative participation, and likes are garnered for controversial acts and comments, it may be tempting for some to just follow suit and throw your Nike sneakers into the fire.
If you feel strongly against Nike, here’s what we suggest.
It’s pointless to cut out the Nike logos from your socks or to burn your sneakers because you’ve already paid for them. Furthermore, the only real statement you’re making is that you probably have too many pairs of socks and too much money, to begin with.
If you choose to stop wearing your Nike gear, why not give back to the community, while remaining true to what you believe in?
Simply donate your newly unwanted clothes and shoes to charities and organisations like:
- Blessings In A Bag
- H&M (has a global garment collecting initiative that recycles and donates apparel to needy communities)
- Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS)
- Salvation Army
- Singapore Council of Women’s Organisation
So if you’re planning to boycott Nike, why not do it in a way that benefits the community? Who knows? Your donation might help inspire the next national swimmer or track athlete.
And if you like Nike’s products (up to 2% Cashback) and what the brand stands for, go ahead and show your support by buying and wearing your purchases with pride. In fact, you can also check out merchants like Net-A-Porter (up to 7% upsized cashback) and Zalora (up to 3.5% upsized cashback) to pick up some Nike.
We might not necessarily become the next LeBron James or Serena Williams. But there’s nothing stopping us from striving to be the best version of who we can be.
What are your thoughts about Nike’s latest ad? Let us know in the comments below.
Featured Image Credit: Nike
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