It’s telling that two of the most publicised advertising campaigns of recent weeks have been about the same thing: standing for something. Both Nike’s 30th anniversary campaign featuring NFL player Colin Kaepernick, and Channel 4’s awareness raiser about online hate speech have gained huge amounts of attention and coverage – not just in the marketing press but across consumer publications and of course on social media.
These campaigns don’t feature dazzling special effects or the usual kind of celebrity appearances. Instead, they’ve caused such a stir because the brands in question are tackling highly sensitive and controversial subjects.
In Nike’s case, the use of Colin Kaepernick as a focal point for the campaign is a bold statement about where it stands in the culture war currently taking place in America. Kaepernick has been a central figure in the ‘take a knee’ movement, whereby players and athletes in American sports kneel during the playing of the national anthem as a protest against racial injustice and police brutality.
Such actions have highlighted the deep divisions in American society, with opponents of the movement – including President Trump – claiming that the protests amount to disrespect of the American flag and American values.
By backing Kaepernick in such a prominent way, Nike has made clear which side of the argument it supports – leading, inevitably, to a backlash against the global sportswear giant from some quarters.
Yet Nike’s share price has also climbed significantly since the campaign launched, suggesting that its actions have had an overwhelmingly positive impact commercially. While Nike could have stayed out of the debate around ‘take a knee’ altogether, its bold campaign has allowed it to cut through the noise and speak authentically to its core audience. How? By standing for something with clarity and purpose.
The same is true of Channel 4, which attracted praise and publicity for choosing to broadcast adverts that were overlaid with the online abuse directed at some of the people who feature in them. This includes abusive tweets aimed at people for being black, gay or disabled.
By developing such a powerful and thought-provoking ad break concept, Channel 4 demonstrated awareness of the day-to-day realities facing millions of people in the online world. Furthermore, as a brand famed for its promotion of diversity and tackling controversial issues, Channel 4 again cemented its reputation and the authenticity of its brand principles.
At BJL our mantra is to ‘Stand for something so you can take on anything’ and it certainly seems that in our angrily polarised world, more and more brands are taking a stand on the things that matter greatly to their audience.
Often it means that those brands are not just part of the conversations happening today – they can play a much bigger role by leading the conversation.
By Jonathan Bacon
Agency Content Writer