Nike is currently celebrating the 30th year of Just Do It.
And rightly so. It’s one of the best and most enduring positioning statements of any brand, in any sector.
Coined in 1988 by Wieden + Kennedy (still working with Nike to this day), Just Do it has been a powerful driver of Nike’s brand strength and growth over the years. Very, very few slogans have that kind of longevity and manage to capture the core essence of a brand with such simplicity and impact. Great stuff (putting aside the fact that it was supposedly inspired by the last words of a man facing the death penalty).
One of the executions they’ve used is a nice, emotive film celebrating the success of Serena Williams and taking us back to the days of Serena and her father dreaming and training for the day when she might win the US Open. Beautifully crafted and a very nice piece of communication.
But the thing that’s really got the world talking about Nike and Just Do It is a simple, black and white image with nine words.
By partnering with Colin Kaepernick on the eve of the new NFL season, Nike is effectively taking sides (the right side, if you ask me) in the whole right-to-protest vs. respect for the flag debate that has raged in the NFL and wider US society for the past two years.
It’s a brave move, because this is a highly emotive and divisive issue for many Americans, with (some) valid arguments on both sides. Brave, because Nike will have known that this would immediately alienate a significant chunk of its sports-mad, NFL loving, patriotic audience. They risked, and indeed almost immediately got, a backlash from some of those people. They may well have lost some customers for a while. Possibly they’ve lost a few for life, although I doubt it’ll be very many.
On the other hand, with the use of this simple, but extremely well crafted message, Nike has immediately got the world talking about Just Do It.
And this isn’t just generic brand awareness we’re looking at. Every single piece of media coverage and social media comment is reinforcing the core essence of Just Do It and the Nike brand – bold, committed, fearless, leading. It’s the brand and the company living up to its own maxim in a way that was guaranteed to cause a stir.
You might say it’s a calculated and somewhat cynical move, and in some ways it is. But by being prepared to piss off and alienate some consumers, I think Nike has pulled off a masterstroke of tactical communications that is totally aligned with its brand strategy and will massively pay off in the long run.