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NFL player kneeling during national anthem

The Nike scandal – what can PR professionals learn?

You may have heard about the bold move from global sports company Nike, selecting Colin Kaepernick, (ex-NFL player and US civil rights activist) as the new face of its global advertising campaign.

Since his refusal to stand during the national anthem, to protest his beliefs on the country’s oppression of people of colour and injustice, Kaepernick has been a prominent figure causing quite the controversy. But did Nike make the right choice in choosing him to celebrate its 30th anniversary?

Yes. Based on the overall success of the campaign and an examination of Nike stock after launching the advert it seems the PR risk has paid off, converting into over $43 million in media exposure. It has also been amplified across social channels with Nike bosses and several high profile celebrities including Serena Williams tweeting their support. Generating $163 million worth of free advertising through the media, this is said to be a record for any sports marketing campaign in just three days.

But there is still a glaring confusion on a PR strategy which blurs the line between being commercially savvy and political.

While Nike may have been valiant in their marketing, there has been a great deal of backlash with Nike stock reportedly falling over 3% and stories of people setting Nike products on fire in angst over the advert.

Controversy can work, but when companies take a stand for what they believe in, they also need to be prepared for any negativity. For example, the fact that Donald Trump claimed Kaeperncik disrespected the country and customers ended up destroying Nike apparel demonstrates that such bold moves can become adverse and companies will need to respond quickly. Brand messages are not a one-off activity and to be effective, businesses must stay true to their purpose, prepare responses, remain consistent and keep their internal and external audience in mind. In some cases, it can be wise to altogether avoid controversy or giving definitive views on political subjects that employees and customers might disagree with. Strategic, thought-led PR campaigns with a strong stance are the ones that will impact a company positively in the long run.

Ultimately, a little controversy can be good for a business as long as you use the right type of controversy. By remaining true to your message, acting with purpose and devising a plan to face any potential challenges, you could be on your way to a PR success.

Does your recruitment firm need a PR strategy plan? Contact us today.

Zahra AbediAuthor: Zahra Abedi

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