During the 2019 ANA Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference, one advertisement won the “Best in Show” award. It was a controversial ad by Nike, Inc. The ad and the award caused quite a stir. The ad was a clear statement of inclusion and showed Nike’s support of diversity in the media world.
Here’s Why Nike’s Advertisement Worked to Demonstrate Their Commitment to Inclusion
Nike’s two-minute video featuring National Football League 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and other athletes, such as LeBron James and Serena Williams, shook the advertising world for weeks. Everyone was talking about it. When the ad first aired, it stole the show and stood out. Social media was buzzing, with commentary on the ad flying left and right. Not all commentary was positive, but it was on a lot of people’s hearts and minds.
The Three Main Aims of Nike’s controversial Advertisement
*A promotion of the advancement of social justice.
The ad was a strong stand against racial injustice. Football player, Colin Kaepernick had been embroiled in controversy over his refusal to stand to the flag during football game anthems as a stance again racially-fueled police brutality raging across the United States. By featuring Colin Kaepernick in their commercial, Nike was sending a bold message of support to the player’s contentious stance. It was also a public acknowledgment of the Black Lives Matter movement.
*A clear appeal to a broader audience and sent a message to minorities that their struggles matter to the company.
The commercial caused a massive stir and even prompted some people to boycott the company. Nike likely saw this coming before releasing the advertisement but went ahead regardless. There are times when what we do isn’t received well by certain groups, especially when we stand up for something.
This is a consequence of using your branding platform to express ideas and values that may be at odds with others. In the Brandview Framework, we explained how values are one of the fundamental aspects of your brand story. Values shape your voice, vision, internal policies, and overall marketing messages.
What Can You Do to Be Inclusive With Your Branding?
During this series, we’ve been sharing ideas and inspiration to help you create your own inclusive branding messages. Here are a few more ideas to help you brand inclusively:
- Assess your branding. Assessment is usually the first step in branding. Assess your current marketing messaging and strategy. Through assessment, you’re looking to ascertain if you’re currently inclusive with your branding or if you need to make changes to your marketing messages and campaigns.
- Make a plan and then implement. This may sound obvious, but what often happens is companies do full assessments and then don’t make any changes. After you’ve assessed, if you determine you’re lacking with inclusive branding, what will you do to fix this? iI’s not enough to acknowledge that you need to make a change. You need to actually follow through and do it.
- Be consistent. For a company to be intentional with inclusion in their branding, they need to be consistent with their voice. Inclusion isn’t just a one-off effort. You can’t, for example, create one campaign and be done. Nike didn’t just release the one ad. They followed up with a series of statements, social media posts, and press around the topic. Even when some people harshly criticized the ad and threatened to boycott, Nike stood behind the ad and demonstrated that they were for the overall dismantling of institutionalized racial discrimination and police brutality. This was more than just an ad. It was a powerful statement of opposition to systems that keep people disadvantaged and oppressed.
Branding has changed. It’s no longer okay for companies to focus solely on advertising their products and services. Consumers want to patronize businesses that stand for something. Customers and clients are purchasing more and more from companies they share a vision with. What the company stands for has become just as important (if not more important) than what they sell. People are proactively choosing companies based on their values and stance on issues, especially controversial ones.
To succeed in today’s marketplace requires a shift. And the shift is a good thing. It benefits the wider audience, gives you room to share values in your branding, and helps create a more inclusive media world, where all voices are recognized and acknowledged.