How Do Gen Z & Millennials Really Feel About Nike’s Kaepernick Ad?

Was Nike right to bet on Kaepernick to appeal to Gen Z & Millennials? Real-time data from our youth brand tracker reveals what young consumers really think of Nike in the wake of their controversial marketing move…

In case you missed it—though we don’t really know how you could have—Nike kicked off quite the controversy last week, when they announced that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick would be the new face of their marketing campaigns. It’s hard to imagine that Nike didn’t know the move would push some hot topic buttons, but they may not have foreseen backlash against their brand building into people destroying their products. There was a lot of noise about those protesting their choice to feature Kaepernick, who is at this point more famous for his decision to kneel during the national anthem than for his football career, as some objectors took to Twitter, posting images and videos of themselves cutting the logos off socks, setting sneakers on fire, and calling for a mass boycott of the brand.

At the same time, many were quick to clap back to the protesters, and at the end of the day, the controversy could be working in Nike’s favor. While the brand’s stock sunk 3% on the day they debuted the ad, Business Insider reported that Millennials were snatching the stock up in droves, and data indicates that Nike’s core demographic is more likely to support the move than burn their merch. CNBC quoted NPD Vice President Matt Powell, who quipped, “If Baby Boomers stopped buying Nike, I don't think they'd ever notice.” The debate has continued: has this bold marketing decision appealed to the young consumers that Nike is clearly targeting? We dug into our youth brand tracker Ybrands to get the data on exactly what they think of Nike right now.

Ybrands launched in January of this year, and has collected over 44,000 interviews that tell us how young consumers feel about more than 300 brands, asking them about the brands they think are cool, true to themselves, supporting causes, and more. So how has the Kaepernick controversy impacted Nike in the eyes of Gen Z and Millennials?

Here are Nike’s scores across key metrics that make up their brand affinity, tracked over time:  

These scores, among 13-36-year-olds, show that across many vital areas, Nike’s marketing decision is paying off. Between August and September (the week that Kaepernick’s ad debuted and the firestorm of online backlash began) Nike’s scores improved as a brand young consumers have heard positive things about, like to hear from, is true to themselves, and cool. The ad seems to have uplifted Nike’s relevance and momentum as well, causing an increase in their scores as a brand that is popular, reflects diversity, supports causes, and is talked about.  

That last metric saw a significant spike, not surprising considering the amount of conversation that Nike has been at the center of for the past week. Why does it matter? Like their decision to take a stand (or knee as it were) with Kaepernick or not, that’s a lot of marketing power. In fact, Apex Marketing Group estimates the exposure is worth more than $163 million.

Let’s talk about the large increase seen in their standing as a brand that supports causes, another vital stat among Gen Z and Millennial consumers. In our 2016 research on the trend PC Police, we found that 54% of 13-33-year-olds said it was positive for a brand to publicly declare support for a progressive cause. Our new Causes to Crises trend shows that this feeling has only continued: more than seven in ten 13-35-year-olds say brands have just as much responsibility as people to get involved with social causes, and even more say that buying products from brands that support the causes they support makes them feel better about spending money. 

But are young consumers more likely to buy Nike over their competitors post-Kaepernick? We looked at some of the key metrics above, comparing Nike to some of their peers to see how they rank: 

Here we see that Nike, which has long been a favorite of young consumers, not only maintains their high competitive ranking, but actually increased in some of these key areas between August and September as their competitors' scores dropped. And while their "will use/buy" score stayed relatively flat, it also stayed much higher than other brands in the industry. 

Ad Age called the campaign "a bold move in an age where marketers often talk a big game about becoming part of the cultural conversation, but often fall short by refusing to take much of a stand on anything”—and clearly the decision to support a cause so publicly has continued to endear Nike to young consumers. Their brand standing stays strong and has, in fact, seen boosts across some important areas in appealing to Gen Z and Millennials. In the end, the majority of those burning their Nike logos are likely not from the generations that Nike cares most about, and so they can consider their alliance with Kaepernick a success, despite the loud backlash.

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The Newsfeed

Quote of the Day: “My biggest mistake was that in my financial beginnings I did not seek help from an advisor and I did very badly with my investments, but later I was able to recover.”—Male, 33, NY

The Museum of Ice Cream and Sephora are coming together for a sweet collab. Popsicle-shaped lip glosses, sprinkle-filled brushes, and more Instagrammable products are available for a limited time. Collaborations seem to be the MOIC’s latest move to rake in revenue (they also teamed up with Target), and this one makes sense: young consumers are indulging their “treat yo self” moments with makeup, and similar products like Too Faced’s peach and chocolate-themed collections are flying off shelves. (Cosmopolitan)

Sony is debuting their own ode to retro gaming: the PlayStation Classic. Millennial geeks everywhere, rejoice. The tiny console (with mini controllers to match) will include 20 fan favorite games like Final Fantasy VII and Tekken 3. The question isn’t why Sony is doing this, it’s why more companies aren’t doing this after seeing Nintendo’s runaway success with the SNES and NES Classic. Consoles will come to shelves in early December, right in time for the holidays. (TechCrunch)

The next Netflix movie could premiere on IMAX. And It’s not just Netflix: IMAX’s CEO said “all of the streaming” giants are “in active discussions” to bring their movies to the big screen. Streaming services have shaken up Hollywood by premiering big-budget movies with A-list actors on small screens, betting that young viewers prefer their couches to theaters. But while staying in is the new going out for many Millennials, their love of experiences is also bringing back the box office. (THRThe Verge)

Some wealthy Millennials are becoming social justice warriors to make an impact with their extra resources. Members of Resource Generation give 16 times more than they did before joining up, and together they’ve raised $120,000 for an affordable housing organization, donated $135,000 to the Social Justice Fund Northwest, and much more. In our Topline on the topic, 88% of 13-35-year-olds said they think they can make a difference by getting involved. (Business Insider)

Chinese Millennials and Gen Z are turning their attention from livestreaming to short video clips. Douyin, a short video app known as TikTok in the U.S., has over 500 million monthly active users globally. It was even the world’s most-downloaded app for the first half of 2018, according to Sensor Tower, and its rival Kuaishou is racking up users too. Meanwhile, users and stock are dropping for livestreaming platforms—with the exception of esports. (CNBC)

Quote of the Day: “I once spent $30,000 in one year solely on fun things (entertainment, traveling, dining out, etc.).”—Female, 21, PA

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