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Friday, October 5, 2018

Nike picks a side in America’s culture wars

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
Financial Times
Originally posted September 7, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

This is Nike’s second reason to be confident: drill down into this week’s polls and they show that support for Nike and Kaepernick is strongest among millennial or Gen-Z, African-American, liberal urbanites — the group Nike targets. The company’s biggest risk is becoming “mainstream, the usual, everywhere, tamed”, Prof Lee says. Courting controversy forces its most dedicated fans to defend it and catches the eye of more neutral consumers.

Finally, Nike will have been encouraged by studies showing that consumers reward brands for speaking up on divisive social issues. But it is doing something more novel and calculated than other multinationals that have weighed in on immigration, gun control or race: it did not stumble into this controversy; it sought it.

A polarised populace is a fact of life for brands, in the US and beyond. That leaves them with a choice: try to carry on catering to a vanishing mass-market middle ground, or stake out a position that will infuriate one side but excite the other. The latter strategy has worked for politicians such as Mr Trump. Unlike elected officials, a brand can win with far less than 50.1 per cent of the population behind it. (Nike chief executive Mark Parker told investors last year that it was looking to just 12 global cities to drive 80 per cent of its growth.)

The info is here.