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11 Entrepreneurs Explain What They Can Learn From Colin Kaepernick and Nike

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The internet went crazy as word leaked about Nike supporting Colin Kaepernick and that he would be the face of the 30th Anniversary Just Do It Campaign. The controversial campaign had people on both sides either falling in love with Nike’s decision or to boycott the company and everything they stand for. An early study says that sales have increased, but wanted to see if entrepreneurs and business owners could learn anything from the company. Nike is an established brand and company and this bold move was something that entrepreneurs and business owners can learn from.

Now that the dust has settled a little bit, we wanted to ask entrepreneurs and business owners if there was anything that could be learned from Nike’s decision:

#1 – Winning Marketing

Image Credit: Jodi McLean

Businesses and public figures that take a hard stand on matters of public controversy are making smart marketing decisions by jumping on the train of viral conversations and epidemic emotions. Marketing has the most impact when it elicits a massive emotional response – either negative or positive. Same as the claim that “there is no such thing as bad press.” If your name, or the name of your company/product is hot on the tongues and fast on the keyboards of a majority of the public, you are WINNING MARKETING. The public is quick to forget details when a new controversy comes along to focus on, but people are like sponges when it comes to emotions attached to something, whether negative or positive is almost inconsequential in the long run…at least with one-offs like Nike’s calculated decision to feature Colin Kaepernick. Nike is once again a highly-relevant and talked about brand, as their biggest competitors (such as Under Armor) are rapidly gaining adoration as the coveted athletic shoe brand of the next generation. Creating audience divisiveness with marketing messages is a terrific way to appeal directly to your ideal prospect and to repel the people that either don’t qualify for your services or don’t align with your company’s ethos. Take a stand with your marketing so that you attract the right clients who value you and are willing to pay a premium for that value. But your marketing had better truly align with your corporate ethos, because your values and your actions are way more visible than ever before to an educated public who will be quick to call you out if they feel your message is disingenuous.

Thanks to Jodi McLean, Key Person of Influence USA!

#2 – Embrace Yourself & Your Values Proudly

Image Credit: Swati Davidson

First off, I applaud Nike for backing Colin with support, dollars and prime-time airtime! Including LeBron after the political backlash over his own good deeds as well as Serena is icing on the cake. While the access that the internet provides many business owners is wide, it also presents the challenge of just how to stand out in a sea of competition. This campaign was a great reminder of why it is so crucial to embrace yourself and your values proudly, no matter what negative consequences could arise. As someone whose business mission centers around getting more Women & Women of Color a seat at the table, I believe we no longer live in an age where we should follow the old-fashioned rules of never talking about politics. With our current state of politics, this commercial reminds us to embrace our values, lead with our true beliefs and stand up for what we believe in. As a business owner, it’s your quickest way to differentiating yourself and finding your tribe.

Thanks to Swati Davidson!

#3 – Money Where Their Swoosh/Mouth Is

Image Credit: Paige Arnof-Fenn

I started a global branding and marketing firm 17 years ago. I think Nike has taught us a great lesson here. Nike is an edgy brand that has earned the right to take a stand on an issue related to sports. They clearly know who their customers are and how to reach them. They are not scared to touch a hot issue or jump into the political arena. I give them a lot of credit for weighing the pros and cons and seeing what the data says. I suspect they knew that surveys are showing this move would upset conservative consumers and speak directly to a younger, more liberal and urban demographic. When you are an authentic brand and you know who your core audience is and what is important to them you can take a stand on an issue like this. I give them a lot of credit for putting their money where their swoosh/mouth is.

Thanks to PaigeArnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!

#4 – Do What Your Sales Want

Image Credit: Rosie Faulkner

Do what your sales want, not what the news and the media wants. In other words- media attention only matters when it overlaps with increasing sales. That’s what Nike did- and they did it correctly. Nike just made a great move to bring in more sales and it’s also causing a frenzy in the media. This is a great example of when what the media wants overlaps with an increase in sales.

Thanks to Rosie Faulkner, Bulldog Adjusters!

#5 – 3 Things

Photo Credit: Julia Angelen Joy

There are 3 lessons here for businesses when watching Nike this week: 1) Be bold 2) Know your core customer 3) Invest in your relationships. Nike is considered a bold brand but most companies prefer to be neutral and neutral means boring. Pushing back works and while this feels like too big of a push for some, it is comfortable for the sports giant. They are used to be bold and just like competitive athletes and their fans, they won’t back down. Then, if you know your core audience, as Nike does, you know that you can make decisions that might push buttons for the outliers and observers, but will resonate with your loyal customers. Nike skews young and liberal — this sponsorship is not shocking to their core customers. Lastly, Nike has had really great, long-term creative relationships with many athletes. They invest in people as part of their brand and in turn, they can weather any small Twitter storms together.

Thanks to Julia Angelen Joy, Z Group PR!

#6 – Take Your Stand

Image Credit: Steven Dudley

Pleasing everyone means pleasing no one. Take your stand!: The story of Nike and Kaepernick should reaffirm to all business owners and entrepreneurs that trying to stay out of the weeds and please everybody is terrible mistake. It is when we stand for something and letting the world know about it, that creates real value. Pleasing everyone, pleases no one. Let the people decide if they want to stand with you or against you. As long as you stand true in your position the right people will stand along with you. Culture eats strategy for business.

Thanks to Steven Dudley, Acts of Evolution!

#7 – Well Thought Out

Image Credit: Edward Corona

It was a well thought out, genius market plan for Nike. Everyone is talking about it and that was the idea. Old fashion controversial marketing like it was taken right from the 1980’s playbook of Benetton…worked then and still works today..well played Phil Knight.

Thanks to Edward Corona, FinTechmerchantaccounts.com!

#8 – Stand Up for Core Values, No Matter What

Image Credit: Megha Hamal

Nike’s choice of Colin Kaepernick as the brand ambassador for their ‘Just Do It’ campaign teaches brands and entrepreneurs to stand up for their core values, no matter what. Values provide entrepreneurs a sense of purpose and direction, and can eventually function as an anchor for their businesses. Nike’s choice of Kapernick as the brand ambassador has spurred a lot of controversies, but Nike as a brand has always stood by its core values. As a brand, Nike’s stance on social issues fall well within Nike’s wheelhouse and as a brand, it has always taken risks, which have ended up working for them in the long-term. Therefore, this controversy has provided an opportunity for brands and entrepreneurs to think about their social responsibilities, beyond revenue.

Thanks to Megha Hamal, Megha Hamal PR & Branding, LLC!

#9 – Stand Firmly Behind Your Brand

Image Credit: Tonya McKenzie

What all entrepreneurs and business owners can learn from Nike & Colin Kaepernick is to stand firmly behind your brand and believe in your product or service. Every product or service should be seen as a solution that improves quality of life for the consumer. If you believe in what you are putting out, you can stand behind it, no matter what the resistance is to that product, service or your company. You know that your competitors and naysayers will always be there to take advantage of any weakness that you show in business. Wavering on what your company produces will give your opposition an opening to do what you should have and take the changes that you should have taken. Don’t waver. Don’t give anybody an opening to obtain the success that is rightfully yours. Stand behind what you are putting out. Move forward with your ideas with confidence that it fully represents you, your company and your brand. #JustDoIt

Thanks to Tonya McKenzie, Sand & Shores PR!

#10 – Be True to Your Brand & Key Ideals

Photo Credit: Roberta Perry

Be true to your brand and your key ideals. That’s what Nike did. That’s what I strive to do. The first thing I said when I read that Nike had supported Colin Kaepernick with an ad campaign was YES! I am not saying whether I agree with Colin or not. I am agreeing with Nike’s decision to stand behind their own truth in their own brand. Controversy or not, remaining true to your roots and your brand ideals is a big key to success.

Thanks to Roberta Perry, Scrubz Body Scrub, Inc.!

#11 – Some Issues Transcend Business Interest

Image Credit: Elena Ledoux

What I’ve learn from the Nike/ Kaepernick events is that some issues transcend business interest. And: It’s good to be on the right side of the history.

Thanks to Elena Ledoux, MommyGO.co!

What do you think of Nike’s decision? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

About Gresham Harkless Jr.

Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.

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