It’s rare these days for big companies to go out of their way to plant their feet in the ground and take a moral stand, but that is exactly what Nike seems to be doing lately.
Most people know Nike as the biggest name in sportswear, but not as a beacon of progressive values. In fact, years ago they came under fire when it was revealed that they, like many other companies, actually utilized sweatshops overseas to make many of their products. This of course is more an issue with capitalism and economics than it is with brand message and values, but it definitely didn’t do them any favors.
The trouble with marketing from a progressive standpoint is, it can easily backfire. We’re in a political climate where being labeled a “progressive,” far from being a compliment, is actually taken as an insult due to how morally bankrupt our society has become. We’re in the age of lies, propaganda, resurgent fascism, and outright delusion. Where in all of that mess does a progressive company find a foothold?
Vegan Shoes Go Mainstream
Even if you consider yourself fairly progressive, you might be wondering, what on Earth is a “vegan shoe?”
Well, it’s one made without any animal products or by-products whatsoever, and often in a more sustainable manner than typical production processes. This can also include biodegradable material, as well.
Nike recently broke into the vegan shoe market with limited runs of their Nike Flex and Nike Free lines of shoes, which utilize breathable mesh and their typical comfortable designs. They are actually well-received, and are relatively affordable as far as Nike products go. It is clear that despite being one of the major brands people look for when they think of high-performance “mainstream” kinds of sport sneakers, that they are looking toward the future and thinking about what people are going to be looking for down the line.
The shocking thing to realize when you look into the shoe industry in general, is just how many animal by-products wind up in them. It’s horrifying when you think about it: everyone running around with bits of animal fats and juices tying the synthetic fibers of their footwear together. Aren’t we better than this? As a society, surely we can think of better solutions to clothing production than having to use the remnants of dead, enslaved animals to cover our feet?
What’s worse is the leather industry, which specifically breeds over a billion animals a year just to kill them for their skin, so we can wear it on our bodies. Absurd when you stop to think about it. As a supposedly “advanced” society, how can we let such nonsensical practices continue?
While most footwear brands continue to use animal products, we have to recognize the brands that are making an effort to investigate vegan avenues, and Nike is one of those brands. Spearheading change in such a deranged market is a huge progressive move, even if it’s just baby steps.
Colin Kaepernick and Nike’s New Campaign
News outlets have been buzzing about Nike’s new ad campaign, which has controversial former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick as its face.
For those who don’t already know, Kaepernick came under fire when he began to protest police brutality and racial inequality, by kneeling during the National Anthem at various NFL games back in 2016. This sparked harsh criticism from various fascists, who would seek to silence such non-violent, harmless protesting. He was slandered and eventually cut by his team, and to this day has not made another appearance in the NFL.
Colin Kaepernick’s actions sparked a nationwide controversy which is still raging, with misunderstandings abounding. Many of his detractors don’t understand his position, and due to right-wing propaganda, believe him to be an ungrateful brat protesting the anthem itself, or even our military and police forces as a whole. These misunderstandings are calculated of course, and to be expected in the age of propaganda.
The message behind Colin’s protests are simple: raising awareness about racial inequality, especially as it pertains to how people of color are treated by law enforcement. It’s not about protesting the anthem or what it stands for (though, even if it were, he has every right to do so under the 1st Amendment anyway). What should have been seen as an honorable, righteous act was contorted by much of the media as a sign of disrespect to the NFL and the country at large, so the pitch-forks came out in force.
Now, in many circles, Kaepernick is seen as a villain when in a more honorable age, he would be a celebrated hero. Such is living in a world where propaganda and misinformation is king.
Nike is seeking to turn the tide however by featuring the ousted NFL star as the face of its new campaign, implying that great sacrifices are worth it for the greater good.
This of course has certain talking heads tripping over themselves, as well as members of the general public going absolutely crazed with anger, as would be expected of closet racists and others who abhor the idea of people of color speaking out and standing up for justice.
@Nike has always been my favorite sportswear. BUT…I will never buy another product with their name or logo on it. I’ve burned everything I had with the Nike logo on it and man that felt soooooo good #BoycottNike
— Harmonie Safaris (@HarmonieSafaris) September 5, 2018
The hashtag #BoycottNike popped up almost instantly, from enraged racists who were offended at the idea that Nike would side with Kaepernick rather than toe the line of the NFL commissioner, who issues a statement last month that said, in no uncertain terms, that it was mandatory for everyone to stand during the National Anthem at every game. This came about due to pressure from the Trump administration, of course, and their ongoing assault on free speech and justice.
However, the hashtag has been somewhat usurped by more rational-thinking persons, as most of the tweets and posts have a more sane outlook, supporting Nike’s choice as well as Colin’s message, that something needs to be done and more voices need to speak out against police brutality and what is going on behind the scenes in America.
Nike’s Choice and The Importance of Holistic Branding
It can’t be said enough how gutsy it was for Nike to stake it’s position with Kaepernick after how incendiary a figure he has become as of late. It’s no secret that many on the far right, including Trump himself, see him as a thug and a villain, when in all actuality he is an incredible human being championing justice at the risk of his entire lifelong career goals and dreams. He’s the kind of outspoken hero we need in this age where morals and progressive values are something altogether maligned. Right now, it’s the “in” thing to be intolerant, especially online.
Why is it so important for Nike to craft an holistic brand message, though? The evidence points that consumers are getting fed up with their favorite brands supporting injustice and destructive policies. We’re seeing more companies and advertisers get boycotted and put through the ringer on social media, because buyers are becoming aware of how much influence companies have and how important it is for brands to have integrity.
We know that our society is structured to favor injustice: it’s sort of baked into the recipe of how things are. It’s been this way for quite some time, as well. Companies are always trying to save money at the expense of their products and workers, find tax loopholes, ship jobs overseas, exploit the environment, and take advantage of corporate laws. It’s just how things are constructed.
Obviously, these kinds of things don’t sit well with moral individuals, and as we as a society become more progressive and “aware,” these policies will become at odds with what we expect. No matter how good a product is, no one in their right mind wants to support a company that tries to dodge taxes, destroy the environment, or use child labor on the other side of the world. It’s simply not going to cut it.
Not only are consumers fed up with these practices, they want even more. It’s clear that people want the companies they buy from to be actively engaged in helping the environment, reducing their carbon footprint, helping low-income areas, supporting veterans, running fundraisers, creating green alternatives, saving energy, and providing more salary to their workers.
Businesses going forward are not going to survive if they choose to rely on the old ways of doing things. They will only be harming themselves in the long run if they choose practices that exploit workers and harm the environment.
Veganism is the fastest growing movement on Earth right now, which should tell you a lot about what consumers want and expect out of a company. Nike, like many other companies, is seeing the writing on the wall. It’s time to do away with the old and actually create business models that serve people, help communities, build up the environment instead of breaking it down, and ultimately stand for something moral rather than just being another outfit for making money.
Products like vegan shoes might seem small, but for a massive company like Nike, they are a huge step in the right direction. Siding with Colin Kaepernick even more so, because it displays a willingness to do what’s right even if it means a potential or temporary loss in revenue, or in this case a public-relations nightmare.
The only thing you can say is, if you have steaming-mad racists burning their shoes on social media in a white-hot rage, you must be doing something right. Hats off to Nike.
The founder of Digital Sages, Matt has an extensive background in self-mastery and has authored several books on the subject. His goal is to demystify important esoteric subjects and help people transform their lives through self-awareness and personal empowerment.