Nike’s decision to build an ad campaign around Colin Kaepernick earned more support than not among Americans, especially younger ones, according to polls released Thursday.
Kaepernick, who sparked years of debate and earned the ire of President Trump by kneeling during the national anthem, prompted yet more debate last week as pundits argued the wisdom of Nike aligning its brand with the polarizing former NFL player.
“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” Kaepernick says in the ad campaign.
“What was Nike thinking?” Trump asked in a tweet after the campaign launched.
But a Quinnipiac University poll showed voters approved of Nike’s decision to feature Kaepernick in its latest ad campaign, 49 percent to 37 percent. The poll also found a distinct age gap, with those 18 to 34 approving of Nike’s decision by a 67-21 margin, while voters 65 and older disapproved of the decision, 46 to 39 percent.
A separate SSRS Omnibus poll provided to CNN found a similar age divide: Among Americans ages 18 to 34, 44 percent approved of Nike’s decision, while 32 percent opposed. That poll also found 47 percent of adults 65 and over disapproved, while 26 percent supported Nike’s decision.
Although the campaign sparked protests among some consumers and the company’s stock price initially dipped, it has rebounded. Nike stock closed at $83.47 on Thursday, an all-time high for the apparel maker, according to ESPN.
Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who has been a free agent for 18 months, began sitting and then kneeling in the summer of 2016 to raise awareness of police brutality and social injustice, a cause that was taken up by NFL players and other athletes at all levels of competition. Last fall, Trump called for any “son of a bitch” who did not stand for the anthem to be fired, and he has been highly critical of Nike’s new ad this month.
“Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN,” he tweeted Sept. 5, “Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way?”
Trump also called Nike’s campaign “a terrible” message in an interview with the Daily Caller, saying “maybe there’s a reason for them doing it, but I think as far as sending a message, I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent. There’s no reason for it.”
At least two small colleges attempted to distance themselves from Nike after the campaign’s release, and a Louisiana mayor tried banning local booster clubs from purchasing Nike apparel, although he later backed down.
Nike took it all in stride, releasing a statement instructing people on “how to burn our products properly.” Nike had quietly kept Kaepernick under contract throughout his protests; when other apparel companies showed interest as his contract was expiring, the company re-signed him, making him the focus of its 30th anniversary “Just do it” campaign. According to a Bloomberg report, the company generated buzz worth $43 million in media exposure through the new campaign.
Quinnipiac also surveyed voters about demonstrations by NFL players during the national anthem. Two-thirds of voters said NFL players have the right to protest during the national anthem, but they were evenly split on whether they approved of such displays, with 47 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving.
Men and women were equally likely to support the right to protest, and majorities of black, white and Hispanic voters agreed. A majority of Republican voters, by a 60-39 margin, did not support that right.
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,038 voters nationwide, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. SSRS surveyed 1,008 adults nationwide, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Interviewers for both surveys called landlines and cellphones.
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