“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
This tagline — under a black and white still frame of Colin Kaepernick — of Nike’s newest advertising campaign would leave the impression that Nike is positioning themselves as a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Do not be fooled.
Nike’s use of Kaepernick’s image is nothing more than a marketing scheme.
Kaepernick — the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who knelt in peaceful protest of police brutality during football games — has become a celebrity voice for the movement. While he voluntarily lent his image to Nike, this advertisement should be met with some skepticism.
Nike aligning themselves in support of police brutality protesting appears bold, but any measure of corporate activism seems like it has more to do with profitability than genuine support or humanitarianism.
When social movements are used as marketing schemes, the movement becomes commodified and exploited for a company’s financial gain.
Nike is hardly the first corporation to participate in this tactic. Dick’s Sporting Goods dropped their sales of assault rifles after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. in February. Pepsi used the image of a street protest in a television ad in 2017.
Using social and political movements of the oppressed to push athletic gear or soft drinks is manipulative and tacky. Suffering is not a brand.
Black Lives Matter should not be commercialized. Slapping a corporate logo on one side of a national debate only serves to divide us further and co-opt our voices.
Would Nike “sacrifice everything” to continue supporting Black Lives Matter if cultural attitudes shifted and the movement’s prevalence faded? Why is it that Black Lives Matter is not “something” they “believed in” prior to Kaepernick’s public protesting? The movement has been building before Kaepernick started kneeling and police brutality has been around for even longer than that.
If companies are genuinely interested in joining social action for more than just higher sales, then their activism should not stop at a national advertisement.
Nike could donate some of their revenue to organizations committed to fighting police brutality. Proceeds could be used in the legal funds or medical expenditures of a person who was the victim of police brutality. Would Nike sacrifice their profits to believe in something?
Paige Wisniewski is a senior majoring in interdisciplinary social science.