Nike Embodying the “American Dream”

“If we can be equals here, we can be equals everywhere”.

The Air Jordan 1’s used to be the illest (still is) pair of shoes anyone could ever grab. Nowadays you could probably walk around and see people wearing the red and black colorway. These shoes opened the gateway for streetwear. These pair of shows were what Michael Jordan wore in his rookie years while being endorsed with Nike. No one would have predicted the extreme impact these shoes would have had on Michael Jordan’s life, and on Nike.

As the demand grew for Nike’s supply, Nike had to expand. And like any other retailer, Nike ended up going through a lot of harsh criticism. The company has been subjected to criticism on its poor working conditions, and exploitation of cheap labor overseas. On the front end of things Nike is also known to have a really strong influence on the “athletic lifestyle”.

Nike’s slogan is “Just Do It”, a slogan embodying the “American icon” of associating success with achieving greatness. Nike is known for endorsing a number of famous, and great athletes embodying their brand.

Recently, Nike launched a campaign called “Equality”. It has snippets of notorious athletes, with Alicia Key’s singing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”. It currently has over 4,000,000 views, and has had over 3,000 shares (solely on its Youtube views/shares, this is not including third parties; Instagram, Facebook).


Now this social media campaign is still ongoing, and depending on how you define “viral” it may or may not be seen as viral. I caught wind of this through Instagram. I saw it all over my dash. Obviously, the filter bubble was at play here. Being a part of and following a number of running “movements”, the Nike ad was bound to appear on my dash at some point.

The commercial is well-planned and perfectly coordinates with the post-election results. However, instead of receiving loads of compliments, if you look at the comment section it is full of people calling Nike out for hypocrisy. A lot of them pinpointing “Equality” as a propaganda ad, or comparing it to Under Armor. However, some people are applauding Nike for making a stance visually (a week ago the CEO Mark Parker released a statement on his political stance).


This is not the first time Nike (or any retailer for that matter) has been caught up in a complex marketing strategy that does not reflect their back end. Nike does have a rich history for raising awareness on issues such as racial equality, and disability rights. The question becomes, do marketing campaigns work even if they are “hypocritical” to the brand?

Yes. They definitely do. Nike has been a large player in the retailer for many years now. Generations have looked up to Nike, especially in the 90s when Jordans were seen as “the best shoes to play basketball in and dunk even if you were under 6ft”. There are probably a lot of people out there who consume Nike, or remain in good faith with it. On the flip side, there are shoppers who often call out Nike. Regardless, Nike is still a big powerhouse and they are trying (to some extent) to work on their back end. Currently, with this campaign, Nike is also planning to partner up with MENTOR and PeacePlayers International to donate $5 million this year to help “advance equality in communities across the U.S.”.

Regardless, of your political stance or how you see Nike. I think it is very important that as consumers we question this blur between marketing opportunities, and political spheres. And with advertisements like these, it triggers the conversation between conflict and compromise. We as a society must realize that corruption and chaos is what makes up our society, so how do we move on? We need to find resolutions, platform, and work together.

In the 1986 NBA playoffs, Michal Jordan wore the Air Jordan 1 against the Boston Celtics. Although the Bulls lost, the game is known for being Michael Jordan’s entry to claiming himself as the brightest young star in the NBA. These shoes followed Jordan on his journey to achieve the American dream. It made young children and teens across the nation believe in becoming a great NBA player. It brought hope, and it made people believe in­–just doing it.

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