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Posted by Sarah Brown on 11 Sept '18

Is Nike a really ethical company or just using a great marketing strategy ?

Nike is celebrating the 30th anniversary of “Just do it” with a controversial promotional campaign. Has it worked and are they really ethical?

In the last week Nike’s advertising strategy of using Colin Kaepernick, a controversial American Football star has been prominent in the news. The campaign is to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the slogan "Just do it"

I was interested to hear many pundits on the radio suggesting it was just part of a marketing strategy as though it couldn’t be anything to do with the ethics or values of the company. They didn’t believe that Nike believed in something despite its slogan.

Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.


Looking on their website Nike's mission statement is to

"bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world."

The asterisk after "athlete" is important as this was reportedly added by co-founder Bill Bowerman, who explained that "if you have a body, you are an athlete." The implication being that Nike's goal is to inspire you whether you're an athletics star, running for a hobby, or just want to wear to look good in their items.

This a bit different from the one they reportedly had in the 60’s “Crush Adidas”.

Their vision has 4 core elements which potentially explain their marketing:

1. deliver break-through innovation in our products and services

2. reach new levels of sustainability as we enhance product performance

3. develop deeper, more meaningful connections with our consumers

4. present our products in compelling experiences at retail

They use these elements to guide their actions and make decisions and this has clearly resulted in the campaign to create “more meaningful connections”.

But do they believe it or is it just a marketing phrase?

I didn’t know and struggle to find examples in either direction (please do let me know if you have examples). I knew that they got bad publicity for using cheap labour in the third world but then I came across an article that mentioned flyease shoes and found they do seem to follow their mission. Find out more about these accessible trainers here.

No company is perfect but I think I give Nike the benefit of the doubt.

And what about the controversy? People posted videos of burning Nike trainers and cutting up socks and President Trump tweeted his disgust. In Florida, a local mayor banned his staff from buying Nike products but according to the Independent “The gamble of using a controversial figure in its advertising appears to have paid off for Nike, which saw its online sales surge by 31 per cent in the days following the campaign launch.”

Whether they really believe in this it shows the general population does and votes with their purse and wants to be associated with a visionary statement.

Is it clear what your business stands for? What do you think about Nike?

If you have enjoyed reading this then these are likely to interest you:

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Tags: values marketing