The answer lies with this question:

Is this decision an OPPORTUNISTIC PR EFFORT or is it a reflection of a NIKE CORE VALUE?

Nike has a history of modest engagement on social issues including encouraging female participation in sports in the 90’s and more recently launching a sports hajib for female Muslim athletes. The step of engaging Kaepernick wades into an existing national controversy instead of poking at the edges of a social issue. I believe that may be a first for Nike.


If Nike leadership approved this campaign simply on the basis of opportunism, then it was a very high risk venture. Part of the risk comes from the variability on how this plays out with the customer base and in the media. Stock dropped immediately. Social media was outraged. Broadcast media coverage was neutral to positive. Time will tell.


Understanding your company’s core values is critically important for decisions like this.

One of the best definitions I’ve seen for a core value is this:

A CORE VALUE is something that you are WILLING to be PUNISHED over.

Core values are core. They don’t change. They are directional.

Core values set the mark on what is in bounds and what’s out of bounds.

The punishment of Nike was immediate.

Leadership had to have known that they would get that kind of response at least initially.

Leadership Lesson For Your Company

  • Are any of your core values specific enough that they actually reflect a stand for something?
  • Are you willing to be punished for one of your core values?
  • How can being more specific in defining your core values SEPARATE you from your COMPETITION?