Beats by Dre mar­keter Omar John­son says Nike has made an ad that will move cul­ture.

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Speak­ing on the side­lines of the re­cent OMD Pre­dicts event in Dubai, key­note speaker Omar John­son says Nike’s sup­port of Colin Kaeper­nick is typ­i­cal of the brand.

“If you look back at Nike and the moves they have made over the last 30 years, they have al­ways been be­hind the ath­letes that had a point of view, a lit­tle bit of at­ti­tude,” says John­son, the former vice-pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing for head­phone com­pany Beats by Dre.

Kaeper­nick was the San Fran­cisco 49ers quar­ter­back who has not played in the NFL since he left the team in 2017 after re­ceiv­ing crit­i­cism for kneel­ing dur­ing the na­tional an­them the pre­vi­ous year. He said he was ‘tak­ing a knee’ in protest against po­lice bru­tal­ity meted out against African Amer­i­cans, and has since claimed NFL team own­ers have con­spired to keep him out of the sport. His ac­tions at the e time sparked ire from US Pres­i­dent res­i­dent Don­ald Trump, and when hen Nike re­leased an ad fronted by Kaeper­nick on Septem­ber 3, 2018, it was fol­lowed by a flurry of protest, in­clud­ing nclud­ing videos on so­cial me­dia of Amer­i­cans er­i­cans burn­ing their Nike mer­chan­dise. e.

De­spite the back­lash, John­son – who led ad­ver­tis­ing at Nike for six years be­fore join­ing Beats eats in 2010 – said the sports brand will have done its home­work.

“For me [the Kaeper­nick nick ad] didn’t feel like a big risk,” he says. “If you look at what Nike is choos­ing, hoos­ing, they are choos­ing a group of f young con­sumers that shape the he fu­ture, at the risk of los­ing some 45- or 50-year-old guys who may not agree with Colin Kaeper­nick. . At the end of the day, Nike bets on the he fu­ture, and you can see it in their heir stock price, you can see it in the re­sponse to the spot.”

Im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing ng the Septem­ber 3 an­nounce- un­ce­ment that Kaeper­nick would nar­rate its ad, Nike’s share hare price dipped, but by Septem­ber 21 its mar­ket et value had risen 5 per cent, ent, adding $6bn to its worth. th.

Nike, says John­son, “made a choice be­tween n the at­ti­tude and voice of the fu­ture and the past. .I I can’t knock a brand that at chooses the fu­ture ver­sus us the past.”

He says brands “have e al­ways got to find ways to recharge the next gen­er­a­tion of shop­pers, , no mat­ter how old and es­tab­lished they are”. The Kaeper­nick ef­fect could lead to other ath­letes be­ing seen as more than just sports­men or sportswomen. “If you look at how Nike cel­e­brates the ath­letes in the com­mer­cial, it’s not LeBron [James, the bas­ket­ball player, who also ap­pears in the ad] dunk­ing a bas­ket­ball, it’s LeBron ded­i­cat­ing a school he’s cre­ated for kids in his neigh­bour­hood,” says John­son. The move by Nike could be a “light­ning rod” that will change how other brands work as well. “They should prob­a­bly catch up, be­cause the ath­letes see them­selves as more than ath­letes at this point,” says John­son. He adds: “You look at where the world is to­day, and we need more lead­ers to emerge. And to shine a light on where peo­ple need to go. I think it is a great thing, and I think you will see more ath­letes mak­ing that choice to ex­press them­selves.” Fo­cus­ing only on sports stars’ abil­ity on the track, field or pitch is “un­fair” when they do much more after the cam­eras go off. John­son likes to speak about brands “mov­ing cul­ture”, and says Nike’s strat­egy is an ex­am­ple of this. The Kaeper­nick spot isn’t about mak­ing peo­ple feel good about the brand, he says, but is a call to ac­tion for peo­ple to stand up, for ath­letes to use their voice to make things bet­ter. “There you have a clas­sic move of shift­ing cul­ture,” says John­son, “where you and I are hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions about all ath­letes now hav­ing a re­spon­si­bil­ity to speak on the things they care about, to speak to things they are pas­sion­ate about”. When it comes to brands find­ing their own way to shift cul­ture, John­son says that of­ten the an­swer is a lot of hard work, speak­ing to con­sumers. “It’s the worst kept se­cret on the planet, but nine times out of 10 it’s with your con­sumer,” he says. How­ever, con­ver­sa­tions should go deeper than mar­keters are of­ten ready to delve. “They tend to stop with the re­ally easy an­swers,” says John­son. “Why I go back to the ‘Why?’ is you can con­tinue to ask ‘Why?’ mul­ti­ple times, and con­tinue to pull things out. Most mar­keters stop when they get the an­swer they ex­pect, when they get the an­swer that roughly sur­prises them. They don’t con­tinue four ques­tions down into the ‘Why?’ to re­ally un­der­stand the emo­tion of it.” When they do, as Nike has shown, the pay­off can be huge.

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