Nike’s endorsement deal with Kaepernick’s sparks controversy

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Campaigns are about creating talking points that keep the brand in focus. American sportswear, apparel and shoe brand Nike has stirred a debate with its latest deal with Colin Kaepernick that also invoked a sharp reaction from President Donald Trump.

Nike on Monday had signed Colin Kaepernick as one the faces of its 30th anniversary campaign ‘Just Do It’. The renewal of the deal with the controversial athlete has led to call of boycotts, which also witnessed a 3% fall in company’s share value. Some athletes and intellectuals have also stood up in favour of Kaepernick and Nike.

The protests were led by President Trump. “I think it’s a terrible message that they’re (Nike are) sending, and the purpose of them doing it, maybe there’s a reason for them doing it, but I think as far as sending a message, I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent,” Trump said, during what was described as an Oval Office interview. “There’s no reason for it.”

Nike on Monday had revealed Kaepernick as one of the faces of brand’s 30th anniversary campaign ‘Just Do It’. The decision to feature Kaepernick has invoked calls to boycott Nike products while many have sparked social media debates for and against the deal.

Even before an official announcement were made, Kaepernick had tweeted a teaser from the ad. The teaser was captioned “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

The National Football League (NFL) also issued a statement in favour of Kaepernick, who in 2016 had begun kneeling during the national anthem to protest against racism, police brutality and social injustice. NFL said that it “believes in dialogue, understanding and unity. We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities. The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”

Nike has a history of courting controversies with its campaigns. The company had dressed Andre Agassi in denim shorts, had Charles Barkley declare that he was not a role model and Tiger Woods remind he was not welcome at some country clubs for his skin colour.

The latest campaign with the NFL midfielder was another “cautious decision” in synch with the Nike’s campaign philosophy. Before Kaepernick’s existing deal with Nike could expire, the brand and the controversial athlete have renegotiated it into a multiple year tie up.

While there have been widespread debates and protests against the deal, US tennis icon Serena Williams has stood by the brand and the fellow athlete. Serena Williams reiterated her admiration for American football player turned activist Colin Kaepernick on Tuesday, and praised apparel maker Nike for featuring him in a new ad campaign.

“Especially proud to be a part of the Nike family today. #justdoit,” the 23-time Grand Slam champion tweeted. “He’s (Kaepernick has) done a lot for the African American community, and it’s cost him a lot,” Williams said. “It’s sad. But he continues to do the best that he can.

“Having a huge company back him, you know, could be a controversial (decision) for this company, but they’re not afraid,” added Williams, who has had an endorsement deal with Nike since 2003. I feel like that was a really powerful statement to a lot of other companies.”