Week 13 Discussion

Marc Bain’s article “Nike’s Kaepernick ad is what happens when capitalism and activism collide” discussed the magnitude of influence corporations have over society. Until recently corporations tended to stay away from political or social movements, but that era has come to an end. Nike used Colin Kaepernick in their 30th anniversary ad of the slogan “Just Do it” and took a calculated risk. Kaepernick began to kneel during the US national anthem to bring attention to unarmed African Americans being killed by police. Although the ad does not explicitly comment on why Kaepernick chose to kneel during the anthem it stated, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The ad generated both public backlash and support. Whether Nike included Kaepernick for public awareness of inequality present within the United States or an opportunity to increases profits remains open to interpretation. A pessimistic view of the situation would lead an individual to conclude the move was entirely business related. Nike has a generally younger consumer population and align with figures such as Kaepernick standing up for what he believes in. An additional problem arises with the sincerity of the political movement in commercializing the topic with a brand. On the other hand, one could argue Nike wanted to take a stand on social inequality and Kaepernick served as an outlet. Organizations such as BlackLives Matter commented on the ability of a large corporation such as Nike to use a controversial figure like Kaepernick and bring to light a political issue. I believe the motivations of Nike were for personal gain and an attempt to have the public be more aware of injustices taking place in America. A corporations main goal is to maximize profits and Kapernick helped Nike increase theirs. If the ad did not produce economic growth or Nike’s consumer population primarily be older, does Nike stop running the ad? Kaepernick would have been the party more significantly affected and Nike would have simply found someone else to replace him in the ad. However, even if Nike did stop running the ad, the message would have already been delivered. The ad allowed people to develop or expand upon their own political stance on the matter and commercializing the movement may not be as negative one is let on to believe. Capitalism has been and will continue to be an essential part of American peoples’ lives. A young girl or boy can see the Nike ad of Kaepernick and begin to wonder what is his story. I think future generations encountering political movements early on is crucial. Nike’s ad should not finalize ones beliefs, but at the minimum inspire people to want to know more. There is not a clear answer whether corporations should voice their opinions on political or social movements. Nonetheless I foresee practices of activism and capitalism colliding more over time. Nike’s Kaepernick ad set the precedent in the field. One thing for certain is the general public now will be a little more socially aware of political unrest with this trend.

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  1. People have always taken issue with the nature of advertisements and the messages that they share since the rise of radio. With radio, many felt as though having advertisements interrupt broadcasts was invading one’s ability to enjoy the medium freely. In the same way, television ads initially received criticism. Now we debate over whether large corporations should produce ads with political messages, whether direct or indirect. A broader theme that has surfaced over and over in our class this semester is that people’s concerns over changes to communication infrastructures is nothing new. Advertisers have become more deceptive as people try their hardest to get around them. Now we must worry about the true motivation corporations have for ads like this one.

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