December 3, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 46°F


Commentary: Nike pursues progressivism for profit

On Feb. 25, 2019, Nike revealed a new ad to air nationally promoting Nike and the “just do it” motto of the company. The title of the ad is “Dream Crazier,” as Serena Williams refers to the multitude of stigmatizing labels women are subjected to in not only sports but all facets of life.

The ad features Serena Williams as the vocal backdrop to a series of video snapshots of women breaking barriers in sports. This comes a little over 5 months after Nike released “Dream Crazy,” its ad voiced by Colin Kaepernick talking about why dreams are only crazy until accomplished. When the Kaepernick ad was released, it came at a time of division within the United States and posed a key “line in the sand.” Nike was clearly coming out against the stigma and oppression currently being amplified in American society. Nike is acting as a corporate voice of change, and the public has responded in economic support. The New York Stock Exchange price of Nike stock hit an all-time high of almost $85 after the “Dream Crazy” campaign. Corporate America prized the move as genius.

Nike has a history of using its role in society to paint a modern picture of what the world of sports should encompass. In 1988, Nike released an ad challenging ageism in sports. The commercial followed San Francisco running icon Walt Stack. Stack posed for the world as an image of someone theoretically far out of their prime years of life but nevertheless managed through the stigma associated with his age to continue his passion. At the 2017 Grammys, Nike presented a new ad, in which it partnered with LeBron James, Serena Williams, Victor Cruz, and other notable athletes across a multitude of sports in its “Equality” campaign. Nike also pledged $5 million in donations to a multitude of organizations that work to advance equality. In 2018, Nike released another iconic video that would shake the core of the American public. “Dream Crazy” was released to unprecedented success that saw over 80 million views across Youtube, Facebook and Twitter within a month’s time.

The United States was and continues to be divided across a plethora of issues. And for those who think Nike is wasting its time promoting equality in our society, to ignore the truth about the social and political atrocities we experience daily is complicity at its best. Nike is choosing to address the truth and to show the public the company is not complacent in a time when cooperate America seems to have no stake in addressing the core issues that manifest in everyday interactions.

However, it should be noted that Nike is likely not being a moral arbiter because it’s “cool.” Nike has much to gain from empowering the public in its rising sales. Nike is expanding brand loyalty and the number of people who feel an emotional connection to the brand. While the videos are powerful and donations help key causes that need addressing in our society, the resources allocated to these projects are merely a drop in the bucket compared to mass earnings Nike has to gain from the general public believing that Nike has the well-being of society in mind. It is in this emotional economic manipulation I approach with caution. When equality is no longer a harbinger of economic success, what will Nike do and say? When social issues go out of style, and don’t produce the same profit margins Nike is after, will we still praise the company as “woke”? Will we keep “stanning” this capitalist structure?

That being said, the Dream Crazy and Dream Crazier ads both stand out as direct challenges to the rhetoric coming out of the White House and many of the establishment powers worldwide. As much as I want to bash the impacts of capitalism and all of the interlocking issues surrounding cultural creation from a sociological perspective, we need Nike to do this more and other companies to follow. There may not be such a thing as ethical capitalism, but we have to recognize that Nike has the power to change the public discourse.