Originally published on LinkedIn

If, after the recent Colin Kaepernick ad campaign released by Nike, you found yourself a-huff, stomping your feet about patriotism, angry about a brand forcing its political agenda on you, setting your grass-stained Nike Air Monarchs ablaze, I have some bad news for you…

Nike doesn’t care.

You’re dead to them as a consumer. You’re too old, you’re too conservative, and you no longer match their target market. They are finished spending money to entice you, finished nurturing you through email-promotions, finished retargeting you through banner ads, finished putting in the effort to maintain your business. You know why? Because there are millions (MILLIONS!) of Millennials and Gen Zers who are their target market. They are highly-active, athletic, and genuinely care about social equality, and it seems that last characteristic has now become a focused-differentiator for Nike.

Conducting a PESTEL analysis is a fundamental exercise in business and marketing strategy. It looks at the current and short-term political (P), economic (E), social (S), technological (T), environmental (E), and legal (L) climate to inform their decisions and strategies as a brand, or a product line, or an individual product. Understanding the current domestic climate has clearly uncovered a differentiation opportunity for Nike: appeal to their target market on a political and social level.

What I love about this particular campaign is that it aligns so well with their brand mantra: Authentic Athletic Performance. While the message itself may not be entirely “performance” driven, it is certainly athletic in nature, and all sorts of authentic. A counter-culture mentality has always been a part of Nike’s heritage. From their first spokes-athlete Steve Prefontaine, to John McEnroe, to Carl Lewis, to Serena Williams, and now Colin Kaepernick – Nike has always embraced the athlete that speaks their mind, that challenges norms, and that redefines the lines and definition of what being an athlete really means.

Authenticity continues to be a brand value that younger consumers seek from the companies and organizations they choose to conduct business with. It’s why Patagonia has seen a resurgence in recent years, why brands that give-back to the underserved and under-represented are flourishing, and why brands that stick-to-their-guns and embrace their values will be successful with the Millennial and Gen Z consumer-groups.

If you’re upset about Nike’s message, that’s unfortunate. I write this not to disagree with your opinions or stand upon a soapbox – I write this so you can prepare yourself because this kind of social-forward messaging from established brands is just getting started. And with the current PESTEL climate, it’s not changing any time soon.

(Also, Nike’s stock price and digital sales spiked just after the campaign went live…)

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