Colin Keapernick and Nike are Beating the NFL on Principal… The Victory is In the Sacrifice.
Ignoring politics, the radical fringes and the fact that trying to raise awareness about police violence does not necessarily equate to disrespect of the country, I find it interesting to watch how Colin Kaepernick has become David to the NFL’s goliath and the moves all the brands have been making on and off the field. Here is how I see it…
Saying no is one way someone (or a company) can quickly and easily (it requires no action) express their principles to their audience. Saying no is hard. You will almost always anger someone when you say no. Yet people are also really attracted to people and companies who are so confident in their principles that saying ‘no’ is easy for them. Even if someone disagrees, they will often respect their position. Choose the thing you are, and own it. Because you are willing to give up all of the other items in favor of the one thing, your audience will gladly give you what you want.
The NFL chose to nuance their stance, rather than moving back to their one core brand position of owning ‘football’. Because they own football we ascribe all the attributes of the game to them. Tough, pure, fast, athletic, exciting, fun, violent, graceful, competitive etc. and we forgive them for not being other things. This is the reason we are reluctantly willing to give the NFL a pass on concussions, domestic violence, animal abuse etc. Football is ‘violent’, it is not ‘activist.’ By moving off their core position they allowed room for others to define their position, ‘football can and should be activist!’. Not surprisingly, they are quickly moving back to football.
The Nike ad should actually read “Believe in Something. Your sacrifice will be rewarded.” Keapernick’s sacrifice was so great, his principles so firm that no one has been able to successfully attack the large payday he received from Nike—we actually want him to be rewarded for his sacrifice. He deserves it, his sacrifice proves it.
We don’t know if there is some conspiracy to keep Colin out of the league, but if the NFL takes a principled stand (maybe they have, but just didn’t communicate it well) and potentially sacrifices some of its profits to make sure any player talented enough to contribute to the game of football gets a shot, we will also reward them, even if Colin isn’t picked up.
Humans are emotional and illogical when it comes to arguments (sacrifice is only proof of conviction, not merit), but we do seem to always reward a logical approach to the application of principles. If your brand consistently applies its principles, the public will reward you over time with trust, loyalty and profit, or at the very least, with respect.