How do brands show up in an age of cultural and racial sensitivity without the BS?
Started my day to find my social feeds flooded with a new campaign from Nike in response to the current social climate ‘For Once Don’t Do It’ (#UntillWeAllWin). Simply put, WTF?
I typically do not speak on the actions of brands in relation to their stance on social injustice, however because of my personal experience with this brand I feel compelled to write and hopefully help others better understand why this ad is borderline offensive and completely tone deaf.
Simply put this is ad is cookie cutter, rushed and ineffective to a black community grieving and here is why.
When a global brand like Nike launches a “social” campaign with a point of view during social upheaval, taking a stance seems risky and brave but in reality, it’s not. It’s calculated, deliberate and in this instance somewhat disingenuous.
In the same way they launch product campaigns, they would be strategic, well planned and intentional, this ad follows in the same vein. A tried and tested formula Nike blueprint to the letter. Every word and sound has been carefully crafted to appeal to the widest audience possible. The call to action, asking consumers to ‘Do Better feels self serving. Given the current situation how does it actually help and console the largest community affected by racism and police brutality?
Nike has an amazing and world class roster of athletes and the support of the Black community at large, who look up to this brand and yet they no where to be found during these troubling times. Like all the others before it, this ad fails because it skirts around the issue without being declarative. Sports brands rely on black culture to sell sneakers and apparel. If you intend take a position then you have to stand by it and call the issue out for what it is.
This particular moment is about racism, but it is specifically about Black lives. Unfortunately, the formula of being timely and of the moment, cannot be filled with empty messages for the Black community. This ad is designed to win the feed and does that. It allows Nike to be part of the cultural conversation without truly taking a genuine stand.
The intention with the ad is clear. Show support for the Black community in their time of grief. That needs to be applauded. But it missed a crucial opportunity to send a clear message to the world. and say it out loud. BLACKLIVESMATTER. I applaud Reebok and Nordstrom for taking a clear sharp point of view when others are toeing the line. It is courageous and it is being recognized.
This is an opportunity for brands to stand up and be counted. Show the world that you care about the community who drive your business both culturally and commercially. Show the world how you plan to truly be part of the change. To stand in support of a social justice movement and not prove it through your actions is a missed opportunity.
Racism at the exec level of corporate America is not new to any of us that have experienced it first hand. It is pervasive, it is toxic and down right traumatic. It rewards those in positions of privilege and demands the minorities to put up and shut up. Often times our careers get crushed in service of the company’s needs. This has been played out in all aspects of corporate America time and time again. Corporate America stand up and be part of the change in a REAL way.
As Black leaders, we choose to work through it and to a large extent, tolerate it, internalize it so we can keep going in the hope of making it easier for those that come after us. We owe it to them to go on. However, the subtle yet potent way institutional racism curbs upwards mobility for people of color in corporate America is REAL. Nike, you have the power and the means to be the change that you promote in your seductive campaigns in support of the black community and it starts from within your own organization.
You have the opportunity to truly use your global platform for long lasting good. This ad is very hypocritical given the systemic racism that exists within Nike. The stories of countless incredible black execs that suffered the same fate as I did should not be forgotten. This begs the question, where do you go from here? I hope this moment will provide you with the courage and the motivation you need to do what is right and stand by the very people you claim to support, with real ACTION.
For those brands taking an authentic stand, let’s rally together to truly evolve the narrative.