StatSocial Knows -> Are Nike Fans Also Colin Kaepernick Fans?

Sep 5, 2018 | Insights

We decided to put our StatSocial audience insights engine to work for a quickie, timely entry today.

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick — the former NFL quarterback — with one simple gesture gave birth to a whole lot of heated debate. During most of that year’s preseason, Kaepernick chose to sit during the American national anthem. It was done, he said, in protest against racial oppression. He described his cause as “bigger than football.”

During the fourth and final preseason game of the year, Kaepernick opted to kneel during the anthem, rather than sit. He explained this change in posture was inspired by feeling the need to honor U.S. military servicemen and servicewomen, past and present, while still maintaining his protest.

To say that as a result of all this that Kapernick became a polarizing figure would be an enormous understatement. His jersey was the best-seller on the NFL’s official website that year. Conversely — with over 40 other NFL pros eventually kneeling during the anthem in solidarity and protest — the league saw a significant drop in TV ratings during the season, and studies suggested the protests were indeed a factor.

NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, speaking personally and not on behalf of the league, per se, came down in favor of free speech and acknowledged that Kaepernick’s protests were not without merit. Gooddell said, “I support our players when they want to see change in society, and we don’t live in a perfect society.” He made it clear, though, that he did not believe it appropriate to use the pregame performance of the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ as the time to stage such protests. He continued, “…that moment is a very important moment. So, I don’t necessarily agree with what he is doing. We encourage our players to be respectful in that time and I like to think of it as a moment where we can unite as a country. And that’s what we need more, and that’s what I think football does — it unites our country.”

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We should interject here that as we are a statistics company, we do not inject ourselves or our personal opinions — vary as they do throughout the staff, as they will in most workplaces — into any political discourses. Everything posted here is neutral, and shared as a matter of general interest, whatever your feelings on the subject.

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Even for as fast and furious as news cycles move in these modern times, discussion of the Kaepernick protest never entirely died down. Earlier this week Kaepernick posted a photo to Twitter, it was a black and white close up of his face, and part of a Nike ad campaign.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the internationally recognized sporting good brand’s “Just Do It” slogan; inarguably one of the most iconic in the history of advertising. Kaepernick has been enlisted by the Portland-headquartered athletic footwear giant, along with a full slate of other athletes — including superstars LeBron James and Serena Williams — to be part of the landmark campaign.

A two-minute commercial hit the web this week, and public reaction has again been polarizing. Hashtags both for and against Nike and Kaepernick have been trending, and laptops have been fired up from sea-to-shining-sea as think-pieces aplenty have been published.

Here is the commercial.

Where does StatSocial come in? Where we always come in, with the cold hard statistics.

Identifying over 7.5 million active American Nike enthusiasts in the social media sphere, we analyzed the lot of them to determine how many also displayed an affinity for Colin Kaepernick via expressions of fondness or admiration over social media, blogs, and other online public forums.

Then, as with nearly all of our statistics, we gave the numbers context by setting a baseline for comparison. In this case, that was the average American social media audience. Here’s how things shook out:

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The proportion of Nike’s social media audience who are also fans and admirers of, and / or sympathizers with Kaepernick exceeds the quantity of supporters that he’d find among the average American social media audience by over one-and-a-half times. 1.3% of the US online social media population has a positive engagement around Kaepernick, whereas 2% of Nike’s fans do so.

Nike invests heavily in understanding their audience. While the political statement may be consistent with the Nike brand’s DNA , it is safe to assume that a lot of research went into market testing and understanding the nature of their audience and to see how receptive they might be to the Kaepernick-led branding. StatSocial insights suggest that this might be a safer move than many might think.

And since you’re here, let’s take a second and compare Mr. Kaepernik’s popularity with this crowd to a couple of the A-listers featured in this campaign. First let’s start with Serena Williams, very possibly the finest female tennis players of all-time. Her 23 Grand Slam tournament victories are the most ever won by a single player during the Open Era.

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Ms. Williams finds affinity among the Nike faithful to a degree exceeding the baseline by over two-and-one-tenth times.

Perhaps the biggest celebrity in the commercial is NBA superstar — and brand new Los Angeles Laker — LeBron James. He’s gone on the record saying he “stands with Nike” in the wake of the backlash they’ve incurred since this campaign dropped.

Here’s how he measures up (well, he’s 6′ 8″, but we mean in terms of social media audience statistics) when analyzing Nike’s audience’s affinity for him vs. what can be found among the average American social media audience.

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Mr. James indexes here in excess of the baseline to a degree nearly four-and-two-thirds greater.

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