How Nike’s $6 Billion Colin Kaepernick Campaign Put the Focus Back on Big Creative Ideas

'Calculated risk' paid off for brand familiar with controversy

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The “traditional” agency is dead; data is king; consolidation is the word of the day. You’d be forgiven for thinking ads themselves—and the people who make them—are growing less relevant by the minute.

And then there was Nike.

One tweet by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick on Sept. 4 featuring a close-up of his face, Nike’s trademark swoosh and tagline and the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” ignited a cultural firestorm and teed up the next day’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” broadcast spot. Three weeks later, CEO Mark Parker credited the bold campaign with boosting sales and customer engagement after analysts estimated it had added $6 billion to his company’s market value.



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This story first appeared in the October 1, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.