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Nike’s Latest Move is Just Good Branding.

by Nathan Fleming

There are two types of brands in the world. Those who are authentic and those who are not.

Nike’s 30th Anniversary Ad featuring Colin Kaepernick is an example of the former.

Authentic Brands Practice What They Preach.

And they are true to themselves in all they do. They don’t just project a persona or archetype, they live it. Nike has achieved iconic status as the quintessential “Hero” brand. And even since before the Michael Jordan era, the implicit message of Nike has been that the best athletes wear Nikes.

But what does it mean to be a Hero brand? More importantly, what does it mean to be “the best athlete.”

In The Hero And The Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes, authors Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson outline the archetypal DNA of a Hero brand. Archetypes define the “who” of a brand and give it qualities that people can identify with and relate to on a human level.

According to evolutionary psychology, the desire of The Hero is to prove one’s worth through courageous and difficult action. The fear is that of weakness, vulnerability or “wimping out.” As a strategy, the Hero archetype seeks to become strong, competent and powerful. The call of the Hero is when the bully kicks sand in your face or someone tries to intimidate or abuse you…a challenge beckons…someone needs you to help defend him or her.

Whether one sees Kaepernick as a Hero or not is irrelevant. His actions are the very embodiment of the Hero archetype.

As Mark and Pearson point out:

“Nike’s central mission is to understand and inspire the soul of the athlete. Its slogan, “Just do it,” promotes the heroic virtue of the courage to act.”

Being a great athlete is about more than just fighting for a few more yards. It’s also about fighting for what you believe in. No matter the cost.

This move is on brand. And it may hurt them. But what’s more courageous than sacrificing your bottom line (temporarily) to let the world know who you really are?

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