Nike and Colin Kaepernick – the scandal of the year?

When Nike introduced Colin Kaepernick as the new face of their campaign, it generated a huge buzz on the internet. The NFL-player black rights activist is a controversial figure. He’s got harsh critics for his demonstrative movements, so cooperating with him was a brave act from Nike. An irresponsible act or a clever move? Is it really true that “negative ad is still an ad”? Neticle has looked into the web data to give answers to these questions.

Strong start of the campaign

Neticle collected and analyzed the publicly available online written contents (articles and their comments, blogs, forums, social media posts) about Nike’s new campaign that appeared on the web between 1st September and 31st October. During this 2-month period, Kaepernick was mentioned 686 times, the sporting brand 1881 times and the campaign itself 376 times.

In fact, most of the mentions appeared within 10 days, right after the launch of the campaign. 50-250 mentions were generated per day by internet users between 3th and 14th September.

Figure 1: Online mentions about Colin, Nike and the campaign in September and October (source:

If we compare the advertisement with other events around Nike, it will actually show how quickly the campaign generates results. It became the major news item. For example, the scandal about sexual harassment accusations against Nike-sponsored football star Cristiano Ronaldo generated only 103 mentions on the web in early October, while the separation of the tennis player Maria Sharapova and Nike has been mentioned 55 times. As you can see, the jubilee campaign is really strong and attractive.

Luck favors the brave?

Not only is it attractive but also provocative. Even before the start, it could be assumed that there would be critical voices, but the 38% of negative comments would be surprising even for Nike’s PR managers.

Only 17% of the results are positive, and the discussions take place in the comments’ section under the articles. Colin is the most criticized one, and many consumers worry that the ad will damage the reputation of the sporting brand. However, more positive consumers like the NFL player’s strong conviction and support Nike for the courageous move of standing behind such a social issue.

Figure 2: Distribution of campaign mentions by sources (Source:

Beyond the profit

Nike believes the campaign is successful, as it is clear from Neticle’s data, too. More specifically, the huge interest and the theme of the comments show it: most discussions overlook the financial aspect of the cooperation, and whether Nike will have less consumers because of the advertisement. The main topic in most dicussions are the current problems of the American society and racial equality. Many consumers agree that the minority state of African-Americans, which lasted for centuries, cannot be dissolved within only a few decades, and yes, these social issues needs awareness campaigns like Nike’s.

Figure 3: Typical comment in the comment section under articles (Source: