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Understanding the “Why” Behind the Popularity of Nike’s “Dream Crazy” Ad

Nike's risk in partnering with Colin Kaepernick for their newest ad campaign has proved worthwhile. There has been a positive response to the company's ability to take a bold stance on a divisive topic.

The bet Nike made with their ad campaign looks to be paying off. Their stock was up significantly a couple weeks after Labor Day, the day they revealed Colin Kaepernick would be the lead in their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. On their recent Q1 earnings call, Nike executives indicated that they were very pleased with the positive momentum that the campaign created, especially with the next generation of consumers. They also indicated that digital traffic, engagement and brand strength are up, and they attributed this to the campaign resonating strongly around the world, not just in North America.

The efficacy of this immediately viral ad may not be surprising to you. A stunning 68% of the American population was aware of the ad within 48 hours of launch. The underlying message of the ad is the importance of taking a stand, no matter the repercussions. Naturally, this led to a backlash, leading some consumers to burn their sneakers and others to start a boycott on Nike products. But boycotts generally don’t work well, and in this case, the impact of Nike’s stance was more positive; 62% of the population had neutral to positive sentiments about the ad. Ultimately, the backlash was insignificant when compared to the ad’s positive impact.  Nike’s 31% increase in sales suggests that people were driven to act and buy more Nike products. Perhaps even more important, it was Nike’s most important market segments, Millennials and Generation Z, that reacted the most positively.

But Why?

Researchers are intrinsically curious people. Naturally, this ad has spurred a lot of buzz and numerous publications. Multiple surveys have been conducted (we’ve cited just a selection), and sentiment analysis has been executed. And as often the case, this data can be more powerful when complimented by conversations. Conversations tell us how people feel, they give us insights into consumer’s deep-seated values and needs, not just the trends. They expose the “why.” Wanting to compliment the rich data sources available, we conducted 10 individual in-depth interviews to get a deeper sense of why the Nike ad resonates so deeply with the American population.

People liked the campaign for a variety of reasons. There were those who referenced the First Amendment and the importance of freedom of speech for people and companies. Others commended Nike for their onus to generate community, moving beyond being simply “about selling shoes.”

But by far, the strongest and most popular reason for people’s support for the campaign was that Nike took a stand on a relevant and divisive topic. People thought it was “bold,” “really powerful” and  “cool.” Some were even “proud [of Nike] for taking such a big stance.” Still, many appreciated understanding Nike’s clear position on the topic and felt more positive from feeling informed. It appears that, in a world where most corporations avoid taking sides in order to maximize their market size and sales, people appreciated that Nike took a stand for something that they strongly believed in, even if it meant risking sales.

Check out a few highlights of our conversations here.


To learn more about these conversations or how can help you have conversations with consumers all over the world, please contact us here.

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