Nike. Just Stupid
Rep. Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
In a move characteristic of the growing disconnect between corporate America and the American public, Nike has decided to brazenly insult the vast majority of consumers by choosing Colin Kaepernick as the face of the company. According to Nike officials, Kaepernick will be part of the company's renewed "Just do it," campaign. The ads will include phrases such as, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
The idea reeks with the scent of stupid, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the marketing campaign is designed to celebrate "athletes who have chased crazy dreams, no matter the obstacle or outcome."
Here's the problem, one Reuters poll conducted in September, 2016, just after Kaepernick began his insanely offensive practice of kneeling during the National Anthem, found that 72% of Americans considered his actions unpatriotic. What's more, the fallout of his so called "protest" has led to the deterioration of the NFL brand and the loss of viewership, not to mention countless in revenue dollars.
On social media, the reaction to Nike's announcement has been predictably stark. Almost immediately, images appeared of Nike tennis shoes being set ablaze. And Nike investors have also voiced their opinion through their haste in running away from the company and causing a one-day, 3% drop in stock prices.
Early data is starting to confirm what the Nike marketing department was unable to perceive. One poll by Morning Consult demonstrated a 34-percentage drop in Nike's favorability rating amongst adults. And the numbers were not much better amongst Nike's traditional consumer targets. Nike customers showed a 15-point drop in their perceived favorability of the company while Millennials demonstrated an 8-point drop to a 51% favorability rating. Even among African Americans the drop was considerable sliding from an 82% favorability rating to 74%. In the meantime, the likelihood that Americans would buy Nike products suffered a similar fate with the expressed likelihood that pollees would purchase Nike products plummeting from 49% to 39% in just about 5 days.
Why Nike would undertake this action is baffling. Unlike Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway, Joe Namath, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and others who have graced the covers of magazines, cereal boxes, and television ads, Kaepernick has not been one of the ultra-elites of his field. In 2016, Kaepernick was benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert, and his combined ranking with his co-quarterback was 26th out of 32 teams. Colin Kaepernick is by no stretch of the imagination the Michael Phelps of football.
Clearly, Kaepernick's prowess on the field is not the reason for his selection. Rather, it is likely the result of some political and economic calculation. Nike marketing executives must think that Kaepernick's activities on the sideline and off the field resonates with its target audience. Somehow, Nike has concluded that whatever distaste his actions brought to the general public is worth the celebration of Kaepernick's willingness to "[chase] crazy dreams." So, far, however, their conclusion appears to be nothing more than a horrible miscalculation.
And this brings us to the gross disconnect between the corporate world and the rest of the United States.
Nike represents the latest in a string of corporate actions openly displaying disdain for American foundational principles and institutions. Although they deny actively doing so, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have demonstrated their hostilities to conservative views by suppressing and otherwise shunning them. Google has fostered a work environment averse to supporters of Donald Trump and expressers of conservative dogma. Bank of America has demonstrated its opposition to the Second Amendment and its proponents by refusing to lend money to gun manufacturers. And earlier this year, Yeti announced it would be ending its relationship with the NRA, lest we forget that Yeti is an ice cooler manufacturer, and sportsmen, many of whom relish their Second Amendment rights, love coolers. And who can forget Walt Disney, the bastion of childhood innocence, and its open disregard for the concerns of countless American parents through its open embrace of gay days at its theme parks?
So what is it about corporate culture that shuns traditional American values and does not fear insulting America's geographical midsection?
I have a theory.
Over the past few decades we have witnessed corporate America's adoption of political correctness. It was a path of least resistance led by its attorney and marketing ranks in the hopes of never insulting anyone and not losing any potential business. The infiltration of political correctness coupled with the country's continued moral decay and the lesser appreciation of all things American by our youth have allowed this subgroup to set up a stronghold in our nation's corporate institutions. Until now, people like you and me have not pushed back. But these organizations are massive influences in our culture and in the national perception of normalcy. Their increasing aversion to American core beliefs has now become noticeable and increasingly brazen, and may have finally triggered a backlash. Whether it's too late for Americans to reverse the tide, of course, remains to be seen.
Nike's of course is a totally different problem. Nike's action wasn't so much an act of progressive political correctness, but rather sheer buffoonery. Theirs is a mistake so colossal, it may actually take its place as the greatest marketing error in history. Until they rectify this situation, for them there will be a new slogan, "Nike. Just Stupid."
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and serves in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.comto arrange a lecture or book signing.