Nike puts the boot in to fake news & wins the media game

05 September 2018


Sarah Rice

Typical. I’ve been struggling to write something deep and meaningful about authenticity and how brands can find it difficult because reputation means different things to different people - how do you choose your audience?

This seemed, to my mind, especially hard for new businesses who are still finding out what their truth is or how it connects, but was also super relevant for bigger companies who have developed away from their original core passions.

And then Nike comes along and just does it. If you don’t already know about the campaign designed to support their 30th anniversary then you’re probably not reading this.


By using a close up of Colin Kaepernick’s face with the words, ‘Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything’, emblazoned across it, Nike smashed through almost every conversation platform by bringing authenticity back into focus.

Personally, I’d been struggling with the fact that I was trying to write about being ‘real’ (so down with the kids) but by overthinking it, it just felt the opposite.

But Nike’s obvious passion, intent and boldness in choosing Kaepernick is also deliciously sprinkled with manipulation and misrule. It’s subversive in almost every way possible – getting Trump supporters to burn their Nikes on one hand and pissing off social justice campaigners on the other.

Its unapologetic nature and willingness to stand by this truth makes a difference – something that brands aspire, but often fail, to do in a meaningful way. And in these days of fake news and views the statement about sacrifice for our beliefs hits home with most thinking individuals.

It also shows Nike’s incredible reading of the market at the moment.

Truth and authenticity have been seemingly in rare supply and there is an increasing thirst for honesty in our communication.

The payback is clear. Not only have they successfully begun to ‘degammon’ their brand (according to James O’Brien) they have created more power and connectivity through what the PR world likes to call ‘buzz’, netting an estimated $43m of free media in the first 24 hours of release.

Of course, the storytelling of a global superbrand like Nike can seem almost effortless. The reality is the process behind this must have been epic on a marketing scale (and budget) that most – actually all – of us can only dream of.


But it’s a visceral reminder that who you are matters in business as it does in life – and that it’s worth standing up for. Because, as we’re all too well aware, being fake is a much greater problem to live with.

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