This article takes a look at the cultural and marketing impact of the new Nike campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, who ignited a firestorm of controversy by choosing to kneel on one knee rather than stand while the American national anthem was being played before the start of NFL games. He described his behaviour as a protest against racial injustice in the United States.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Entrepreneurship, marketing, branding

Key Questions to Explore:

  • How does a brand keep itself fresh and in front of its consumers in a way that continues to create a desire for the product that leads to a purchase?
Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

This lesson looks at the disruptive approach that has won Nike brand loyalty and helped build it to a $130 billion company.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  1. Write the Nike tagline for its new campaign on the board: “Believe in something.  Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
  2. Ask students to think for a few moments what this means and then write a brief one page outlining their interpretation of the slogan.
  3. Have students pair to share their thoughts.
  4. Ask students if they know where this tag line comes from.
  5. Ask students how many admire or buy Nike products.  Ask if they will continue to do so with this new tag line.  How many will no longer be interested in Nike products?
  6. Distribute the article for reading.
  7. The author states that the NFL should be feeling “terror” rather than merely being annoyed.  Do students agree or disagree?  Let them explain.
  8. Why is Nike willing to take the risk of alienating some customers?
  9. Is Nike’s approach unique among large brands? Brainstorm other brands who have taken this same approach.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • It is said that  right from the beginning of the “Just Do It” campaign Nike wasn’t selling running shoes, it was selling an idea.  What does this mean?  Have students discuss how it impacts consumers and the brand.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students understand how a brand achieves its place in the market and capitalizes on it to increase sales.

Confirming Activity:

  • Nike has taken a cultural and disruptive approach to selling its products.  In small groups, have students discuss why they would do this.  What are the benefits and risks?  What other major brands have done this?