I’ve been catching up on things since getting back into town and couldn’t help reading into the recent controversy surrounding the new Nike campaign this week. Centred around former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, it features the tagline: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
The campaign is a bold move with the sports conglomerate being the first and only corporate titan to (finally) get behind Black Lives Matter, a social movement that has split the country asunder. While I’m no sports nut I took an interest in Kaepernick’s plight, introduced to him during the 2013 Super Bowl playoffs (the 49ers lost out in a nail-biter finish) while living in LA.
I was blown away at his tragic fall from grace, struck down by the system for having the courage to kneel for something he believed in. "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder"
In my dumpster diving I came across this post from Phil Chang, a brand strategist who helped to put Nike’s choices in context. From the outset, Just Do It, the iconic three words under the swoosh symbol, fostered a culture of breaking barriers. Inspired by the parting words of Gary Gilmore, a convicted murderer condemned to firing squad, the motto has come to define the sports giant.
Chang explains how Nike has consistently wiped the floor with Adidas and its fellow competitors by staying true to its core mantra. In doing so he acknowledges the new campaign as nothing more than savvy marketing. In backing Kaepernick, the company breathes new life into its 'do or die' philosophy that seeped into the counter-culture many moons ago.
While such capitalist powerplay is decidedly depressing, the company's long-running mission statement speaks to a deeper truth. As Chang elucidates; “Trying to be everything for everyone is how you start losing perspective on why you even exist in the first place.” I love this sensibility because it speaks to a more universal truth about life.
It’s all too easy to become disheartened at the first sign of antagonism, to feel compelled to leave the whole world smiling. But that's impossible. It can't be done. Besides, negative feedback shouldn’t put you in the doghouse. It should embolden you to dig in your heels, to hold your head high. Criticism lends you a sense of authenticity. It's what makes your voice unique.
If you're prone to taking feedback a little too close to heart, it's time you take a page out of Sarah Knight’s The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k. Stop doing things for the sake of everyone else and start putting all that energy into living your best life. Learn to make choices that bring you the greatest sense of fulfillment and remember: you deserve to croak it with a million-dollar smile on your dial.