Did Nike’s Ad Controversy Fuel Success?

 In Blog

Nike surprised the world (well, the U.S. anyway, more on that below) when it put Colin Kaepernick at the center of its new campaign, and in particular, their “Dream Crazy” ad. By any measure, Nike has seen incredible success, harnessing the attention Kaepernick has generated from his protests against racial injustice.

The broader fallout from reactions to the decision has been, unsurprisingly, mixed. While some are going so far as to boycott the appare Nike for the bold move, the data tells another story.

What’s the Boost?

Since Nike launched the commercial, there’s been a lot of buzz about what it did for the company. Edison Trends reported a 31% boost in Nike sales online after the ad, but we have a slightly different perspective with the data we’ve gleaned.

For one thing, it appears Edison compared sales from Sunday, September 2 to Tuesday September 4. That comparison isn’t a good measurement of the ad’s impact. In eCommerce, people shop less on weekends than they do during the week. Look at Amazon’s daily transaction volume for August through mid-September in the chart below. Saturdays and Sundays are marked in yellow.

In fact, over this time period on Amazon, average sales were 35% higher on Tuesdays compared to the previous Sunday. So a 31% boost in sales in the time period Edison measured is exactly on pace with what you might expect generally in eCommerce.

Conflict = Web Traffic + Sales?

None of this is to say that the ad didn’t lead to a boost, just that it’s important to try and separate what the Kaepernick ad did for sales from a some other pattern of behavior. Using Jumpshot data, we measured total sales from the week before the ad ran to total sales in the week. Using that time period (8/28–9/3 vs 9/4–9/10), Nike.com saw a 16% boost in U.S. transactions. The Tuesday, 9/4, the ad debuted and the following Wednesday, 9/5, transaction volume was up 58% and 43% compared to the following week.

However, we were only able to see measure this increase on Nike’s own domain. Strikingly, across 10 major eCommerce marketplaces where Nike sells products online, the same time period showed an 11% decrease in transactions for the brand.

The increase in transactions on Nike.com matched a huge spike in visits to the domain in the first two days the ad ran. On 9/4 and 9/5, visits to the domain were up 73% and 82%, respectively. And they’ve remained above average since.

But this only happened in the US: numbers from the rest of the world (which account for 60% of Nike.com’s traffic and 40% of its transactions) were flat across the same time period.

Since the ad first ran, Nike has gained 170,000 Instagram followers. An Instagram post featuring Kaepernick was the second-most liked post in Nike’s Instagram history. So, clearly not everyone hated the campaign

Men, More Than Women, Responded (Positively and Negatively) to the Ad

Interestingly, there was a divide between reactions from men versus women. The ad provoked more far more search activity from men than it did women overall, and negative reactions were more likely to come from men.

In late August, people searching for “Nike” on Google were 58% male and 42% female. After the Kaepernick ad ran, searches for “Nike” spiked and shifted to be even more male than usual. Post-ad, searchers for “Nike” were 68% male and 32% female.

The ad offended some people, who went so far as to boycott or burn their Nike products. The majority of the people who reacted negatively were men: 71% of the searches for “Nike burning” came from men, as did 72% of searches for “boycott Nike.”

So…Smart or Dumb Move on Nike’s Part?

There’s a saying: there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Nike knew that putting Kaepernick in its ad would create controversy, and took a risk in doing so. Nike has always encouraged customers to “Just Do It,” and that often means taking risks to succeed. Rather than choosing a middle-of-the-road athlete to represent its brand, it chose a revolutionary to create dialogue around social issues.

According to an SSRS Omnibus poll for CNN, 44% of people aged 18 to 34 supported Nike’s Kaepernick campaign, and 32% opposed it. Among 35 to 44 year olds, 52% supported it while 37% didn’t. Only 26% of adults over 65 backed the decision. Given that Nike’s audience is high-earning young people, the brand likely is commending itself for the positive reaction among its demographics.

In the long run, the hubbub will die down and Nike will likely remain a strong global brand.

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