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Nike's Kaepernick ad shows brands aligning with target market via social issues, marketing professor says

Friday, September 07, 2018

LAWRENCE — As Nike on Thursday night aired its commercial featuring free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the public response will provide more evidence on how consumers react to brands weighing in on political and social topics, according to a University of Kansas marketing researcher.

"Study results are mixed on whether consumers want brands to take a stand on social and political issues," said Jessica Li, associate professor of marketing in the KU School of Business. "However, brands are increasingly willing to take the chance. A significant number of Americans, especially millennials, prefer to support brands that are socially responsible or that align with their own ideologies."

Li, who holds the Jack and Shirley Howard Mid-career Professorship in the B-School, is available to discuss issues surrounding the consumer response to the ad as it likely will receive attention during the opening weekend of the NFL season. Li researches consumer behavior related to a number of topics.

Kaepernick began the NFL protests in 2016 when he sat during the national anthem to protest police violence and the United States' treatment of minorities. He later switched his protest to kneeling, and a number of other players have since joined his protests. Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the NFL and its owners alleging they have colluded not allow other teams to sign him after the 49ers released him.

The commercial this week has elicited strong reactions on both sides toward Nike.

"This means that, by communicating where they stand on political issues, brands can better align themselves with their target market," Li said. "I also think the shift reflects the fact that the country is extremely polarized on several important issues. Strong beliefs and tribalism probably mean more consumer decisions are made based on whether people or businesses are similar to them or not."

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