Nike: Exemplifying Great PR and Catering to the Interests of its Audience
How the Big Company Remained in the Public’s Good Graces
By: Camille Perkins
Nike is a familiar company to many. It’s always been prominent online and in-person. The
company is seen everywhere and rarely is it because of negativity. There has been some controversy that Nike has faced, the Collin Kaepernick ad situation being one of them, but nothing that it did not overcome. Some may wonder how Nike has remained standing despite conflict, and the answer is strong public relations. When I think of good PR and handling conflict with grace, I think of Nike. Nike understands the importance of knowing its audience and how that helps maintain public image.
Approaching Social Media
Nike is heavily involved on social media, with several official accounts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Some accounts include Nike Women, Nike Basketball, Nike Skateboarding, etc. Most of Nike’s social media focuses on storytelling. Across its accounts, Nike focuses less on blatantly selling products and instead strives to connect with its audience. For example, primary members of Nike’s audience are sports players. On Nike’s accounts, the company tells the stories of athletes worldwide and allows other audience members to connect to these athletes through Nike. Another one of Nike’s key publics are women. With the Nike Women accounts, Nike tells the stories of mothers, athletes, models, dancers, artists, which caters to the women in their audience. Outside of its social media content, Nike connects to its audience on social media through customer service and interaction. On Nike’s Twitter, customers usually voice concerns they have with Nike products or tag Nike in posts regarding their shopping experience to which Nike responds in a timely fashion. Nike’s activeness on social media and its engaging material has kept the company connected to its audience while maintaining Nike’s image.
Nike has shown immense success in crisis management. One of the biggest crisis that the company has faced was the response to its Colin Kaepernick ad campaign. The ad showed Kaepernick and referenced the NFL player’s kneeling protest during the national anthem. With the release of the ad, Nike was met with backlash and boycotts. Many people showed disdain for what Nike did while others applauded Nike. Contrary to public sentiment, Nike benefitted from this crisis. This is due to Nike’s understanding of its audience. While Nike lost some customers, it didn’t lose customers from its target audience, which in this case would be supporters of Kaepernick. Nike chose not to respond to the comments toward the company after the ad was released. They did eventually release an ad titled “How to burn our products safely,” which implied that Nike saw the commentary but chose to indirectly acknowledge it. This strategy worked for the brand, as Nike’s income grew significantly following the campaign. In its history of crises, Nike has either approached the situation by ignoring backlash or acknowledging the issue and taking proper steps to ensure that there is no further damage. Both these approaches have worked, as Nike understand when a response is warranted and cater to their key audience.
Taking on Social Challenges
Nike is open about where it stands on social issues and how it helps tackle social challenges that concern its audience. The brand has tried to address issues that surround its core focus and concern its audience. "The simple mindset I would have is to be guided by what is good for our consumer, good for our athletes, good for our company," said CEO
John Donahoe. The brand’s website is also guided by this principle, showing the commitment to social causes and the approach Nike is taking to help. Following the protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, Nike released a statement on their commitment to the Black community. Nike committed to invest in organizations that were taking steps to ensure racial equity and stated steps it had taken to create a diverse, inclusive atmosphere in its workplace. On Feb. 3, 2022, Nike announced that it became an investor in the Women’s National Basketball Association. The company invested in equity in the league and partnered with the WNBA to tell stories of the athletes and create opportunities for more girls to join the league. Nike’s social efforts appeal to their core audience and maintains the support the company receives from their publics.
Nike’s proficient PR has played a big part in maintaining its image and reputation with the public. PR is largely about achieving the goals of the company with needs of the audience in mind, and Nike demonstrates this definition. Being mindful of its audience and considering audience interests has helped Nike in navigating their social media, managing crises and tackling social challenges. Nike is an example of companies trying to learn successful approaches to PR. I hope to eventually work with organizations that take a similar approach to understanding and connecting with the people who keep them going.
About the Author
Camille Perkins is a current public relations student at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Camille is currently gaining PR experience through various PR courses in preparation for internships and a career after her expected graduation of December 2022.