The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday January 21st

Column: Is being 'woke' the new corporate trend?

I grew up going to piano lessons instead of soccer practice, but Nike’s advertisements always resonated with me — whether they feature Serena Williams' home videos or, more recently, Colin Kaepernick as the face of a major campaign.

It’s a powerful message, with a close-up of his face and overlaid text reading, "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything." What followed was an explosion on social media, with some celebrating the advertisement and others burning their shoes. It’s a big deal for a company to embrace a figure like Kaepernick, a divisive symbol of the protests against police brutality and racial injustice in America. 

But in the end, Nike made a business move. The rise of social media and the constant information shared made it trendy to be socially aware, and Nike, like many corporations, morphed their advertisements to these trends. As "woke" as these Nike advertisements are, the company is still far from being socially-conscious. 

After all, their products are still made in overseas factories by workers who are paid little-to-nothing in dangerous conditions. These criticisms have been plaguing the company since the '90s.

The majority of Nike consumers are millennials, and for many of us, politics matter. It seems everything is a political issue that deserves our attention. This makes everything polarized, including our sportswear. Nike isn’t just representing sneakers anymore, but a lifestyle, which includes standing up for racial inequalities.

Millennials and Generation Z are known for being more tolerant and racially diverse than previous generations. Clearly, Nike knew that the majority of their consumers would not lose support for their company by featuring Kaepernick in their campaign. 

Much of Kaepernick’s stardom came from social media, whether it be his multiple accounts with millions of followers or a Twitter war with the President. Social media erupted with the news of the advertising campaign, a sphere of the internet dominated by millennials. Advertisements have always used famous figures as the face of their campaigns — in this day and age, it’s activists who are the stars.

As great as the message behind the campaign is, Nike is still a corporation that made a smart business move. If anything, this campaign highlights how political our daily lives have become, to the point where even our sneakers have a social stance. 

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