Nike’s anti-racism ad draws praise and criticism, as other brands weigh in on George Floyd's death
Nike's ad addressing the police-involved death of George Floyd, is drawing widespread praise online—including from some competitors—but also some scorn, with some critics accusing the sportswear giant of commercializing the tragedy.
The company—which released the 60-second spot from Wieden+Kennedy Portland on Friday evening—is among a large group of brands and marketing industry professionals weighing in on the tragedy, as protests continue nationally and in Minneapolis, where Floyd, a black man, died six days ago after a white police officer kneeled on his neck.
Nike's ad, which was released to its social media channels, twists its long-used tagline to encourage Americans to not turn their back on racism, and “For Once, Don’t Do it.” It’s is being widely shared online, even by competitor Adidas, as well as by celebrities including Mindy Kaling and Caleb McLaughlin.
Not everyone is a fan though, showing the risk brands take when weighing in on social issues.
“For once, don’t take advantage of a social event and turn it into an ad campaign for yourself,” reads one comment on Nike’s Instagram post of its ad. “Meaningless if they don’t back it up with action. Talk is cheap,” reads another. Yet another: “You’re using the death of an innocent man to sell your products.”
Several commentators turned the conversation to Nike’s workforce. "Let’s all be a part of the change in which Nike stops using sweatshops and underpaying workers," reads one comment. The company for years has dealt with criticism of the working conditions in its factories. On its website, Nike dedicates a page to outlining progress it says it has made to improve labor conditions, including forbidding child labor and "compensation sufficient to meet their basic needs and provide some discretionary income."
Cindy Gallop, ad industry veteran and equality rights activist, tweeted about the lack of racial diversity on Nike’s executive leadership team. She linked to a page on Nike's website showing 10 top executives at the company, all of whom are white.
A Nike spokeswoman noted that Melanie Harris, a black woman who serves as the company's VP of strategy and development, is part of the executive leadership team, reporting to President and CEO John Donahoe. The top executives at Nike-owned Converse and Jordan Brand are both black men. "We continue to sharpen our focus on hiring more black leaders across all levels at the company, creating a strong brand with this community and driving strong hiring results year over year," the spokeswoman stated in an email. She also noted that Nike has "increased VP-level representation for U.S. underrepresented groups by two percentage points to 21 percent. While this is good progress, we know there is more work to do. We will continue to increase representation and strengthen our culture of belonging."
Other brands are joining Nike in releasing their own cries for equality. Many are sharing bold declarations against black backgrounds and are seeing conflicted followers respond with either praise or scorn.
Of those brands making statements, few are supporting their statements with actions they plan on taking. But some are, including YouTube, which pledges $1 million in support of "efforts to address social justice." Bumble says it's making donations to the AAPI Civic Fund and the NAACP, and looking into how it can make "policy and product improvements to address racism and unconscious bias," among other steps. The Ace Hotel, Museum of Contemporary Art and MIlk are encouraging people to donate to funds that support communities in need. EA Sports is delaying its first look at its Madden 21 game.
Beats by Dre
Target in response to closing stores in Minneapolis due to protests and looting
Warner Music Group
The Daily Show
P&G's My Black is Beautiful
The Museum of Contemporary Art (Moca)
The ad community is coming together to share their own messages and show their support for people fighting for equality. Many executives are sharing their donations to various funds that support communities in pain, and encouraging others to do the same.
72 and Sunny
God-is Rivera, global director of culture and community at Twitter
Thas Naseemuddeen, chief executive officer at Omelet
Bonin Bough, founder and chief growth officer at Bonin Ventures
Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia
Contributing: E.J. Schultz