Poll: Nike Kaepernick ad alienated some but hit target

The overall perception of the Nike brand fell significantly following the release of Colin Kaepernick's "Just Do It" ad unveiled on Labor Day.

While virtually no one among the general public thought of Nike negatively in a Harris Poll taken in December 2017, 17 percent of respondents in a poll taken last week by the organization said they saw Nike in a negative light.

The percentage of people who said they couldn't imagine living without Nike dropped nine percent, from 33 percent to 24 percent.

The results of the poll, taken of 2,026 Americans representative of the U.S. population, were exclusively shared with ESPN on Wednesday.

But not all was lost.

The poll revealed that while 21 percent of the general public said they would stop buying Nike, 19 percent said they would buy even more Nike products, and, of the young males in their target market, 29 percent said they would purchase more products.

"Nike took a strategic risk to alienate some customers in order to appeal to their core base of 18- to 29-year old males," said John Gerzema, CEO of the Harris Poll. "It was a calculated move to become a more polarizing brand, and it seems to have worked."

The ad boosted how positively the 18- to 29-year-old age group thought of Nike by six percentage points from when the poll was taken nine months before. Gerzema said it helped Nike catch up, in the positive perception category, to Under Armour (57 percent) and Adidas (61 percent).

Nike has not commented since the debut of the ad, which was supported by billboards in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The ad voiced by Kaepernick aired on the NFL regular-season debut on NBC last Thursday.

Data tracking firm Edison Trends last week said that its work had shown that online sales of Nike product was up 31 percent over Labor Day weekend compared to the average sale days a month before. Labor Day sales were only up 17 percent versus the average in 2017.

Since the younger audience is more likely to shop online, the polling data matches the sales data.

"Gen Z [13 to 22 years old] and millennials [22 to 34 years old] value companies that are socially active," Gerzema said. "The younger population approve of Nike's choice to use Colin Kaepernick."

Of those that said that they wouldn't wear Nike again, 5 percent said they tore the Nike swooshes off their clothing, 7 percent said they got rid of their Nike items and 12 percent said they were telling their friends to take similar action.

Nike came out favorably in its response to the controversy surrounding NFL players' use of the national anthem to take a stand on other issues.

The Harris Poll revealed that only 25 percent thought of the NFL's response as positive, 26 percent found the media should be portrayed in a good look regarding its coverage, 30 percent felt good about how President Donald Trump handled things and 42 percent favored Nike's handling of the situation.