Nike has seen its online sales spike following the launch of a controversial ad campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, according to analysts.
The US sportswear giant faced backlash for the decision to feature the 30-year-old in commercials marking the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” slogan, which had initially seen shares drop 3.16 per cent.
However, the move appears to have paid off, with the company’s online sales rising 31 per cent in the days after the campaign launched on Labour Day, according to research by e-commerce analyst Edison Trends.
This compares to the 17 per cent upturn in sales Nike saw in the same period following the holiday in 2017.
Some conservatives had encouraged consumers to boycott the brand after Mr Kaepernick’s appearance in the campaign, due to his protests during the playing of the US national anthem before games.
The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback sparked a nationwide debate by taking a knee as Star-Spangled Banner played in demonstration against police violence against minority groups and racial inequality.
His protests, which were later joined by more than 200 American footballers, drew the ire of many, notably US president Donald Trump, who called on NFL owners to fire players who took part. But they also earned him the admiration of thousands of fans across the country, and as well as the title of “Citizen of the Year” from GQ magazine.
Mr Kaepernick had been quietly sat on Nike’s roster since 2011 and had not played professionally since 2016 after he became a free agent and no team opted to sign him.
Nike first released billboard adverts on Labour Day, consisting of a black-and-white close-up of the player’s face alongside the slogan: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
The company followed that with a television advert several days later, featuring Mr Kaepernick and a number of superstar athletes signed to the brand, including Serena Williams and LeBron James.
The ad was praised by other sports stars such as Tiger Woods, who told ESPN: “I think Nike is trying to get out ahead of it and trying to do something special, and I think they’ve done that.”
The rapper Common called the ad “beautiful and powerful and inspiring”.