Nike Pulls Its 4th of July Sneaker

What would you have done?


Last week when Nike dropped and then pulled a sneaker to commemorate the US 4th of July holiday, the brand immediately faced backlash from all sides of the debate. The sneaker featured the original US flag representing the original thirteen colonies as created by Betsy Ross. The court of social media opinion immediately jumped in and asked … why use that flag … why pull the sneaker under pressure … why not just keep the sneaker available … why, why, why.

I don’t have the answers, nor will I try. But I do have an intelligent and astute group of NYU graduate students who can attempt to provide some perspective. So I divided the group in half during last night’s class and asked each group to debate one side of the argument: Nike should have kept the shoe on the market OR Nike should have immediately pulled the shoe as it did?!? Should the brand have listened to its spokesperson, Colin Kaepernick, and take his advice to cease immediately, or not?!?

What would you have done?

There’s no easy answer here, and the students didn’t attempt to be super definitive either. It’s tricky. We explored all sides of the situation, as one would do in an academic setting. To learn from it. These are teachable, learnable moments in marketing. From a marketing perspective.

The consensus was, for the most part, that Nike shouldn’t have used that flag to begin with. It was sure to bring some controversy, and perhaps it could have all been avoided with a different design. Research could have perhaps told them to stay away from this territory.

But, once it was out there, most of the students agreed that the brand was smart to listen to their spokesperson and pull the shoe. Pull it out of the news cycle and end the story. Otherwise, it would have continued to take on a life of its own, perhaps for no good further outcome.

Which is what the brand ultimately did, just in time to release a timely video in honor of the US Women’s Soccer Team, which I wrote about earlier in the week.

So if you were in my class, what would have been your POV? What’s your experience? JIM