Following the controversial Nike ad that featured former football star Colin Kaepernick narrating the stories of fellow athletes in Nike’s thirty years of ‘Just Do It’ campaign, Woodside students see Kaepernick as a benefactor.
Kaepernick, a football player who lost his role in the National Football League (NFL) after kneeling during the national anthem, later became an activist for African-American rights. Over the last few years, Kaepernick was an unknown presence within Nike; the most recent “Just Do It” campaign brought him back into the public eye. Plenty of controversy arose from the ad, as it appeared to some that Nike was highlighting Kaepernick’s beliefs and stance on African-American rights.
“When I heard that the Nike ‘Just Do It’ 30th Anniversary ad would feature Kaepernick, I knew the possibility of including such a polarizing figure would prove to be extremely controversial and risky for a company the size of Nike’s,” stated Gavin Carlson, president of the Black Student Union (BSU) and Woodside High School (WHS) athlete.
Many viewers did not like the way Nike portrayed and used Kaepernick, feeling as the ad was centered around him, ignoring the larger message being sent. Kaepernick posted a photo on his Instagram that was revolved around the ad that was released before the start of the current NFL season. Nike has experienced a positive increase in sales since the release of the campaign, and Nike San Francisco has encountered plenty of positive feedback.
“I think where we are it’s definitely been positive,” Cody Ramlan, the marketing coach at Nike San Francisco, reflected. “I mean, you’ve seen mixed opinions on it in general from consumers coming into the building. The fact that he played here? You definitely see more people in support of [him].” Ramlan later went on to discuss how people tend to associate the campaign specifically with their store. He believed it was special to have something that Nike as a brand decided to stand behind and the impact they portrayed in the ad.
Meanwhile, though aware of the Kaepernick controversy, Woodside football begins their season by remaining focused on their goal: winning games.
“Kneeling in the NFL hasn’t really affected me,” Antonio Ochoa, middle linebacker for the Woodside football team, stated. “I’m more focused on high school than I am pro players.”
Another Woodside organization is the BSU, an African-American activist group that meets every Tuesday. The BSU supports Kaepernick and what he stands for, as his position as a large public figure helps to inspire the younger generation to take a stand as well.
“Although there are mixed opinions in the BSU about the way Kaepernick chose to protest during conversations we have as a student union, he is certainly someone we all look up to in regards to his willing to sacrifice and voice his opinion towards issues that affect the African-American community as a whole,” Carlson commented.
Customers have been taking part in purchasing large quantities of Nike gear to donate to those who will wear them proudly. Negativity seems to have been mitigated and positive reactions have been increasing. After the initial waves of emotion and social media attention, the attention has waned but the significance of the message still remains.
“It’s not just about that social point of it, for us as a brand and what we represented with that is a new era of just do it,” Ramlan emphasized. “That’s really what this campaign is about.”