2018 marks the 30th anniversary of Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ campaign. And no one would have guessed how perfect it is for the brand and how relevant it is for all of us. For many, ‘Just Do It’ is an image of Shia LaBeouf doing powerful gestures on a green screen. Others have built memes around the tagline. But there’s more to these three words than just memes and a simple tagline. For once, we’ve witnessed a brand not only run a campaign but actually lead the campaign.
The Banned Sneakers
We need to talk about Nike and their rebellion since 1984. Some 34 years ago, Michael Jordan had been warned multiple times about his black-and-red Nike sneakers. NBA claimed that it was a violation of their “uniformity rule”. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t the Air Jordan 1 that got banned. It was, in fact, the black-and-red colorway of the Nike Air Ship. Only, a PE version of the banned pair had “Air Jordan” on the heels that sparked up the myth.
Michael Jordan had been seen wearing the banned sneakers on All-Star and Slam Dunk competitions. But there was never any confirmation that Nike did pay $5,000 per game for him to wear his custom pair. Nike did take advantage of the mythical “Banned Air Jordan”. And successful as it seems, this still carries out to be the brand’s biggest success stories.
Fast forward to 2018, the world of sports continues to challenge the brand and its ambassadors. Nike designed a custom catsuit for US tennis star, Serena Williams. Meant to help her recover after giving birth, the suit made the athlete “feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess, a queen from Wakanda maybe.” But the French Open decided to rain on Nike and Williams’ parade.
The French Open decided to introduce a dress code within the competition. Claiming it wouldn’t be as tight as the Wimbledon’s all-white policy, French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli announced the sudden change. Why? He believed “that sometimes we’ve gone too far.” But no sweat—Williams said that “everything is fine”. The tennis star adds that “when it comes to fashion you don’t want to be a repeat offender.”
Just Keep Doing It
And as the 31st year of the ‘Just Do It’ campaign unfolds, Nike decides they need someone as intrepid as them to carry the message of the brand for them. Now, former NFL player Colin Kaepernick is the face of this iconic campaign. Why Colin Kaepernick, you may ask. The answer is something right-wing consumers wouldn’t like.
Kaepernick has been raising awareness about police brutality among African-Americans in the US. He does it by kneeling during the national anthem. This quickly spread among other players. After the announcement of the new ambassador, right-wing supporters have come to social media to show their newfound burning hate for the brand, a little too literally.
— AlterAtYeshiva (@alteratyeshiva) September 4, 2018
.@Nike how you going to endorse @Kaepernick7 a person that advertises socks with cops portrayed as pigs, a person that hasn’t played NFL for 2 years, well it’s good I never really spent money on your brand but to the money I did, here they are pic.twitter.com/oHFVgDnR4K
— Sebastian Blanco (@thasaviorBlanco) September 3, 2018
First the @NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. I chose country. Then @Nike forces me to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American Flag and the National Anthem become offensive? pic.twitter.com/4CVQdTHUH4
— Sean Clancy (@sclancy79) September 3, 2018
And celebrity athlete Lebron James joins Serena Williams in support of Nike and Kaepernick.
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) September 4, 2018
Backtracking Nike’s long history of rebellion, it’s safe to say that this brand just doesn’t care who they go against. From the NBA to the NFL, and even the government—Nike seems to leave one message for each and all of us, and it couldn’t be more obvious: “Just Do It.”