A lesson from Nike’s controversial ad

The media world has been abuzz about Nike’s new controversial ad featuring Colin Kaepernick. The polarizing former American football player turned activist has received much attention, positive and negative, for kneeling as the U.S. national anthem was played before football games he played in to protest the oppression of people of color.

Since the Nike campaign started (see the full ad here), those who find him unpatriotic have been posting videos to social media showing them burning their Nike shoes and gear. More liberal-leaning consumers have been posting photos and videos of their new Nike gear — often bought simply to support Kaepernick’s right to express his ideas and to show conviction to a cause.

Nike shoes on display at a Nike store in Manhattan in New York. (Getty Images)
Nike shoes on display at a Nike store in Manhattan in New York. (Getty Images)

In the first 24 hours after Kaepernick first revealed the Nike spot on Twitter, Nike received more than US$43 million worth of media exposure, the vast majority neutral to positive, according to Apex Marketing Group. By Friday of last week, Apex said the company’s brand exposure for the campaign across all media platforms hit US$163.5 million. Marketing mavens and celebrities are loving it.

My point here is that Nike understood its growing core audience — youth and millennials — and created incredible buzz and perhaps new loyalists because it stuck its neck out to take what it believes is the right side in a very public debate.

As much as I hear hoteliers talk about capturing the next generation of consumers and making them loyalists, I’d like to imagine a hotel company doing something as buzzworthy. It would take a lot of guts to support and align with a public figure behind a controversial cause, but if the grand majority believes the hotelier is standing behind strong ideals it will make good sense – good business sense.

I feel, however, that is asking too much. It would be perceived as too risky and alienate too many potential customers. But I think it would be a fabulously bold move as the next generation of hotel guests definitely skews progressive and toward supporting the likes of Colin Kaepernick. If you deliver a good product, the support you gain could far outweigh any negativity.

So tell me, hoteliers, good idea, bad idea, indifferent? I think our readership would love to take the pulse on this controversial topic.