On September 4, 2018, Nike famously announced their endorsement of San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. Their catchline: Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. Nike’s decision to “pick a side” in the increasingly controversial war between the NFL and Kaepernick’s choice to kneel during the national anthem was seen as a major corporate gamble, – especially considering the political tension created surrounding the conflict. His actions were condemned by the likes of President Donald Trump, portraying Nike’s advertisements promoting Kaepernick’s actions as a bold political statement. Many even took to Twitter to display the disapproval, with some cutting the Nike logos off of their socks and burning other merchandise.
But Nike’s decision seemed to pay off. General buzz on social media and news surrounding the controversy generated value worth $43 million with 24 hours of launching the campaign, snowballing to an increase in overall value to the Nike brand worth $6 billion. Today, Nike’s endorsement of Colin Kaepernick can be seen as perhaps a best-in-class example of the benefits associated with major corporations engaging in politics.
Now, more than ever, society is beginning to turn to the corporate world to right political wrongs and to boldly present their positions beyond the walls of their office buildings. When Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, 25 major corporations jointly submitted a publication expressing their staunch disapproval. When he moved to eliminate an unreasonably large portion of protected land, clothing company Patagonia did not hesitate to make a clear announcement on their website: “The President Just Stole Your Land”. Increasingly, brands are running towards the proverbial political tornado with more confidence and openness. And this is simply because it’s becoming good business.
Now, more than ever, society is beginning to turn to the corporate world to right political wrongs, and to boldly present their positions beyond the walls of their office buildings.
A 2017 research study found that 63% of US Citizens hope that companies will drive social and environmental impact, and 86% expect businesses to do more than maximize shareholder value through profit. Corporate decisions to pick a side do more than generating a positive image; consumers are more frequently making purchase decisions based on company values. The study, restated on Quartz, also found that whenever possible, 87% will purchase a product from a company that has taken a stance on an issue they care about. AdWeek too, found that a majority of consumers want brands to take a stand on social and political issues. It is no longer enough for companies to sit back and let the sociopolitical world progress independently of the corporate one.
Corporate decisions to pick a side do more than generate a positive image; consumers are more frequently making purchase decisions based on company values.
While this greater consumer-based importance has been placed on corporate political stances, there may be an equally significant risk on a loss of business for those who shy away. Taking a particular stance, or rather, not taking a stance at all, can bring about dangerous consumer boycotts. This occurred with Uber, when the company failed to take a stance on one of Donald Trump’s infamous travel bans.
With every decision to take a political stance comes a serious moral obligation for the company to stay true to their word, and to be prepared for any potential backlash that the public may dish out. What was once taboo amongst monoliths as Nike can now be used as a serious source of profit. In the ever-changing era of the consumer, political stances in support of universal freedom and liberty are evidently influencing where people decide to take their money.