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Nike’s controversial partnership not so polarizing after all?

BY Marianne Wilson

Nike Inc. appears to have dodged the bullet when it comes to featuring Colin Kaepernick in its new ad campaign—at least based on some early results.

According to advertising analytics company Ace Metrix, Nike’s partnership with Kaepernick in the ad “Dream Crazy” was well received by viewers, suggesting the social media backlash comes from a small minority. The polarity score for “Dream Crazy” fell within the 10th percentile of all ads, with a majority of the general population pop viewers finding the ad agreeable, Ace Metrix said.

“The fact the ad was less polarizing than average proves Nike pulled off quite a creative feat given the disagreement on both Kaepernick and the NFL kneeling controversy in this country,” said Peter Daboll, CEO, Ace Metrix. “Nike’s partnership with Kaepernick was highly strategic and they demonstrated a clear understanding of their target audience.”

“Dream Crazy” saw strong resonance among Gen Z and Millennial audiences (on average, Ace Scores were 33% above norm). Older viewers, those among Gen X, positively regarded the ad as well, but to a lesser degree than those younger than them. A few verbatim comments from viewers exhibited some distaste towards Colin Kaepernick’s role as spokesperson, with most coming from those ages 36-49.

Racial inequality is the driving force behind all the controversy that surrounds Kaepernick’s personal brand. African Americans, who rated the ad’s performance 42% above advertising norms, found the ad especially likeable (29% above norm) and relevant (33% above norm).

A look at Nike and Kaepernick trending on social media suggests consumers were outraged and ready to boycott. However, only 13% of survey respondents reported they were less likely to purchase from Nike after viewing the ad. That dropped to 10% among Millennials and just 6% among the Gen Z audience. On the other hand, 56% of general population viewers reported they were more likely to purchase, which is comparable to Nike’s recent, noncontroversial ad that pays tribute to Serena Williams.

“These results show once again that oftentimes, social media backlash can be amplified by media attention while representing only a small minority of haters,” Daboll said. “Most objections to such a polarizing figure as Kaepernick were tempered by the very strong likeability of that message across age, gender and ethnicity.”

The ad also received strong signals for “inspiring,” “powerful” and “love-it” emotions, demonstrating viewers’ positive regard towards the message and creative execution as a whole.

In related news, despite reported boycotts, Nike’s online sales actually rose in the days after the advertisement debuted.

Between the Sunday before Labor Day and the following Wednesday, product orders increased 27%, according to Edison Trends, reported CNBC. In the same period last year, product orders fell 2%.

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