Friday Morning Eye-Opener: Equality As A Value Proposition
by Kevin Coupe
It likely is a coincidence, since television commercials and marketing campaigns usually take months if not years of preparation before ads show up on television or online. But it remains an interesting moment in the athletic wear competition that as Under Armour experiences some very public dissent from some athletes with whom it is in business because of pro-Trump administration comments made by its CEO, Kevin Plank, Nike has engaged with a number of athletes for a commercial that at least obliquely takes issue with perceptions of administration attitudes.
The ad is called "Equality," and it is a powerful piece of advertising, shot in black-and-white, that suggests that "equality has no boundaries." Featuring people like LeBron James, Serena Williams, Kevin Durant, Dalilah Muhammad, and Victor Cruz, with Alicia Keys singing Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come," the commercial in the middle of Black History Month. You can see the 90-second version here.
“Opportunity should not discriminate,” narrator Michael B. Jordan, says in the piece. “The ball should bounce the same for everyone.”
Indeed, Nike has been very public in its opposition to some Trump initiatives - betting that while such a position undoubtably will ignite calls for boycotts in some circles, it simultaneously will reinforce its image among its target consumers and the athletes who represent the company.
“Nike believes in a world where everyone celebrates the power of diversity,” Nike president/CEO Mark Parker recently wrote in a memo to employees. “Those values are being threatened by the recent executive order in the U.S. banning refugees, as well as visitors, from seven Muslim-majority countries.”
It is hard not to see this commercial as part of this values statement, and yet another example of how at this unique moment in time, we are seeing an intersection of politics and business unlike we've ever seen before.
The commercial, I think, would be extraordinary under any circumstances. What makes it an Eye-Opener is how it reflects increasing tensions between the private and public sectors, playing out in public to an extraordinary degree.