Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

The NFL’s Biggest PR Disaster

In 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the pre-game national anthem. A ceremony that exists to honor the US and the great liberties the nation gives its citizens.

Why did Colin protest the national anthem?

Because the quarterback felt that America was failing its people of mixed race. And since the ignored can’t speak up for themselves, Colin did it for them.

The athlete’s stunt started an uproar. Even reigning president Obama shared his views on Keapernick.

The result of Colin’s actions?

Every team from the NFL turned his back on him. The gifted passer’s career was finished.

But his new career was waiting for him around the corner.

In 2018, Nike picked the ex-quarterback to star in their latest campaign.


Because no matter how great of a sneaker the multinational creates, it’s just a plastic tenis shoe. Unless you’re a paid athlete, you probably can’t feel the difference between the Air Max 1 and the Adidas Superstar.

So Nike needs to stand out from its competitors through branding.

What better way to jump out of the crowd, than to make the most controversial man of America the face of your organisation?

A brilliant move.

While every other business ran away from the debate, Nike dashed straight for it.

With Colin as its new icon, the athleisure manufacturer actually stood for something real. And the people felt it.

After a small stumble, Nike shares rose to a record high. 

Does that mean every business should make controversial figures the head of their brand?


Colin was only a success because rebellious athletes fit perfectly inside Nike’s motto of “Just Do it.” Even if it was a strategic decision, the ad campaign didn’t feel like a stunt.

A watchmaker supporting the civil activist, however, would look like a phony.

If you don’t want your customers to buy from your competitors, you need a brand.

How do you get a brand? By standing for something and showing up.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach