Nike and Levi-Strauss: Putting your Value-cojones on the fence

My 100.000 Miles journey brought me to beautiful Stockholm for the Me-Convention. And guess what: as I have been preaching from all the stages I’ve been offered the last years, the talk of town is all about Value Based Marketing.  As @mikeshinoda from LinkinPark put it in his no-nonsense style: “You need to understand the identity of the culture behind the audience. If you don’t, you’re toast. Your product may be good, but if your values are bad, you stink.”

The insult of Kneeling

Right on cue, Nike launched a global campaign for its 30th anniversary featuring Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is the quarterback starting the “kneeling” during the American National Anthem in protest to the police violence against African Americans. Kaepernick paid it cash: the dark right site of the US society screamed in outrage at Kaeperrnick’s “disrespect”.  Veterans Administrations however pointed out that veterans laid down their lives so that Kaepernick could express himself in a free land. The Trump administration added fuel to the explosive atmosphere around the NFL. The storm around Kaepernick is so hefty, no team has signed him up for the season yet.

But Nike never let him down, and is now rolling out a massive campaign around Kaepernick that states “Believe in Something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”.

Burning shoes (and toes)

The powerful image immediately ignited anger and fueled conversations among politicians, marketers, sports fans, historians and consumers. Nike doubled down on its choice to stand up for something clearly bigger than the products it sells.

In the rusty bible belt of the United States, countless rednecks were quick in burning their Nike shoes in protest (one ended up in the hospital –you cannot make this up- by setting fire on the shoes he was still wearing).  The rest of the world reacted amused, pointing out that those shoes were already paid for…

Adweek skeptically pointed out that an economic backlash, featuring consumers and certain celebrities’ alike burning Nike products as part of the impromptu #JustBurnIt counter campaign might bring the brand down.  Sure enough, the stock price took a small hit in the first 24 hours after the campaign launch.

ROI

Bloomberg calculated however that the campaign generated a massive ROI in PR and Value Perception of 43 million over the same period. The campaign generates a huge debate around values and positioning, and all calculations show that the vast majority of these conversations (and the generated sentiment) are beneficial to Nike.

Doubling down

Just as the dust was about to settle, Nike launched a two minute video with Kaepernick as the hero, and featuring a plethora of other celebrities. Theme: “If people think you are crazy, just ask yourself if you are crazy enough”.  The video adds kerosene to the conversation fire. Nike is not backing down, that message is clear.

The naked angry American

Question is… will those angry Americans burn their shoes? Their shirts once they discover Nike is shirtsponsor to the NFL? Their Converses, once they see Nike owns that brand? Will they stop drinking Starbucks? Refute Jayzee, Adidas? Stop drinking Anheuser-Busch?

Levi Strauss’ CEO just unleashed a plan to put an end to gun violence in America. No shoes, no shirt, no pants…no drinks. A new definition of naked burning man ravages the Southern States.

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