When Nike chose Colin Kaepernick  to be part of its marketing efforts, they took a risk.  It was highly unpopular with a significant segment of the U.S. population, but not so much with Nike’s target consumers.

In fact, Thomson Reuters reports that Nike has sold 61% more stuff since the ad debuted.  The social campaign drew a record number of likes and the company’s stock hit an all-time high in mid-September.

It turns out Nike knew its customers.  More than half of all Americans say it is “never appropriate” to kneel during the national anthem, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll.  63% of those over 50 agreed with the statement that it’s never appropriate.  Only 38% of those under 30 agreed and those are the people buying Nike sneakers.

Kneeling Poll

“Appealing to senior citizens is a good way to win an election, but it’s not a good way to sell most consumer products and services.” – Josh Barro in Business Insider

Josh Barro, writing in Business Insider, makes the case that more companies are taking a stand, and they are more likely to lean to the left politically in their attempts to woo younger consumers.

If you decide to take a stand with your product, whether it’s a popular social cause or a politically volatile one, know there’s a great deal of risk involved.  A recent study done by Sprout Social showed exactly what happens if consumers agree with your stand on a social or political issue and conversely what happens when they disagree.

sprout social poll

Some other key findings from Sprout Social’s survey show why brands are getting socially active more often:

  • 66% of consumers say it is important for brands to take a public stand on social or political issues
  • Brands won’t change people’s minds on an issue, but they can help affect change.
  • 78% of those self-identifying as liberal want brands to take a stand.  52% of conservatives feel that way as well.
  • Relevance is key.  Brand are more credible when the issue directly relates to its customers.
  • Risk vs Reward:  28% of customers will publicly praise a brand when the agree with the stand; only 20% will publicly criticize when they disagree.