30-Day Review of Nike’s 30th Anniversary Ad: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

nike ad campaign using netbase chartsOn September 3, 2018, Nike debuted its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign in a bold, on-brand way. The brand has historically been known for its inclusive and empowering messages. Unsurprisingly, its recent campaign resulted in a strong, immediate reaction on Twitter and other social media channels.

Regardless of the personal sentiment surrounding the controversial ad, reports pulled from NetBase show Nike knows what it’s doing in terms of PR, branding, and business.

NetBase Illustrates PR and Brand Significance

Let’s not beat around the bush: Colin Kaepernick has been the focus of many heated debates. Nike surely considered this risk before making him one of the prominent faces of the ad. However, if we take away his name and focus on the social sentiment involving Nike only, it’s interesting to see the about-face that occurred within the last month since the ad was released.

Social Sentiment Surrounding Nike

As you can see from the NetBase graphs below, the first week was the worst for Nike regarding the negative social sentiment around its brand only at nearly 60%. The second week showed the line drawn pretty evenly. However, the real game changer occurred in week three and four, when 64% of Nike’s social sentiment turned positive and then, rose again to 67% to round out the month.

Week one – 9/3-9/10

Week two – 9/10-9/17

Week three – 9/17-9/24


Week four – 9/24-10/1

Takeaway: Take calculated risks. What if Nike had panicked in that first week and allowed the negative backlash to determine the future actions of its brand? They would have surely let down millions of loyal fans had they made a wishy-washy decision. People are quick to formulate negative opinions, but just as quick to change their minds. Think about shaking things up and disrupting the status quo if it aligns with your brand and audience. The payoff could be huge.

Nike’s Stock Value Rises

The old adage is true, at least in Nike’s situation: all press is good press. Prior to the ad broadcast, Nike had 47,000 social mentions of their brand, not too shabby. Post-ad launch, this number skyrocketed to 3.4M viewers just a day after the ad went live.

nike mentions on netbaseAlthough the negative (behavior) sentiment about Nike following the ad was largely “boycott,” as seen in the visualization below, it didn’t negatively affect their stock value or brand. In fact, it increased its numbers across brand sentiment, stock value, and revenue.

NetBase behavior graph for Nike

According to Marketwatch, Nike shares initially dropped, then rebounded, and sales jumped 31% over Laber Day weekend. It’s also forecasted for Nike to report earnings of 63 cents per share, up from 57 cents per share last year.

Takeaway: If you create a loyal fan base, they will stick by you through the ups and downs. Negativity can also motivate long-time customers to take action to support you. It’d be interesting to see if the people who talked about boycotting Nike were long-time users of the brand or not.

Nike’s Revenue Increase

Early reports following the ad showed an increase of $6 billion in overall value that would more than counterbalance the number of people who destroyed their Nike gear or boycotted it.

Of course, there are several factors to consider when determining revenue including seasonality (let’s not forget Nike is an official sponsor of the NFL), brand trend, and the hype decline. However, Nike has been a strong brand for decades and will continue this trend largely because they stand by their brand messaging and continue to deliver it in different ways to their growing audience.

Takeaway: When Colin Kaepernick said, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.,” was Nike talking about its own risk of running what was considered a controversial campaign for the sake of standing by its brand? 

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