Cause-based marketing – does the new Nike ad hit the mark?

Mix a tear jerking creative with a crowd pleasing political sentiment and you’re onto a winner! But the recent Nike “Dream Crazier” ad, which aired during the Oscars this weekend just feels too forced for me to get on board with. 

The ad is a follow up to the brand’s equally politically charged “Dream Crazy” commercial which featured Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who knelt during the opening games national anthem in protects of police brutality. This new ad features Serena Williams as the voiceover, who, following recent outbursts on court, was branded a “crazy woman “by the press. She is shown alongside a number of other trail blazing women who have broken down barriers but were also deemed as “dramatic”, “delusional” or “hysterical” and Serena encourages female athletes to show the power of what “crazy women” can do.

Building brands in the digital age means that they have to offer more to the customer than to just shout about who they are and what they produce. Brands nowadays have to look at how they can engage with their consumers through the alignment of similar values and visions. Through this alignment they can gain additional airplay and space because it gives them additional platforms in which to appear and spread their message – and, let’s face it, ultimately position themselves favourably with an audience that they want to win.

To me it feels like the Nike ad is jumping on a current popular political theme of gender equality and sexual discrimination that campaigns like #metoo have been able to highlight.

But branding isn’t a popularity contest. It has to come from the heart and represent the brand’s true personality in an authentic way. Clearly there is a need to get people talking about these issues, and with Nike backing the cause that can’t be a bad thing, I just question Nike’s motivation to join this cause. Nike built their empire with the tagline “Just do it” which inspires people to get out there and “have a go”. So the recent ads fit with these values, however I still question Nike’s real reasons for joining this crusade. 

A brand’s voice and values shouldn’t just be a point of differentiation but also engender trust, and I think that’s where Nike falls short. I’m not sure that I trust Nike to deliver their pitch and help women’s rights, gender equality or the civil rights movement when they still continue to employ people in less than ideal working conditions, paying less than living wage. (A recent investigation in Cambodia found that female workers were subjected to extreme heat, wage theft and verbal abuse). But it’s not just the brand’s apparent double standards that jar with me. The ad just feels disingenuous – an attempt to jump on a movement that it is gaining momentum with a vital part of their target audience – millennial women.

Why the new Nike Ad "Dream Crazier" misses its mark

I guess socially divisive advertising is a clever way at gaining airspace and brand awareness. The ad is motivational, inspiring and memorable – so it ticks all the right marketing boxes. The stats show that Nike are the Masters of Social Media where, in less than a week, they have over 6m views on YouTube and 28m mentions on Twitter with an overall positive perception. Nike’s approach is likely to drive continued discussion on multiple levels, which I guess is what they were after. I’m still just not sure that I believe them. What do you think?


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