Nike Inc. (NKE) - Get Report may be opening the door for competitors such as Under Armour (UAA) - Get Report and Adidas (ADS) - Get Report to take market share, if sales decline after it named controversial former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to lead the company's Just Do It campaign.
"It depends on whether or not [Nike] sees a sales hit...but they could lose sales to Under Armour or Adidas," said Susan Anderson, a senior analyst at B. Riley FBR. "If customers abandon products than it could have a longer term impact...it could create an image problem."
Kaepernick, now suing the National Football League for collusion after he failed to find a spot on any team roster despite leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, is known for being the leader of a group of pro football players who decided not to stand for the national anthem before games so as to protest police brutality towards black people. The protests have in turn sparked anger from President Trump, among other people, who claim the protests disrespect the flag and the military.
"We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward," Nike North America vice president Gino Fisanotti told ESPN.
Nike's plan is for Kaepernick to lead the 30th anniversary of its 'Just Do It' advertising campaign that also includes tennis superstar Serena Williams and skateboarder Lacey Baker. Kaepernick's participation was first made public via his official Twitter account late Sunday with the phrase "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything."
Nike's sales have held steady and, while the company was down 3% on Tuesday, Sept. 4, it's up nearly 28% year-to-date.
"I don't think we're going to see a large drop off in [Nike's] market share," said Chen Grazutis, an equity analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. "I don't see it as being a game changer." Moreover, he said, "a whole group of consumers want to support Nike," because of Kaepernick.
Grazutis noted that 60% of Nike's sales are global so, while the campaign may be front and center in the U.S. news, it may not have an effect on the majority of Nike's sales, he said.
"[Under Armour's] sales have been a lot weaker. They've really struggled with North America," Anderson said. She noted that the company hasn't "done as well" in comparison to Adidas and Nike.
"It's a fine line that Nike is trying to walk," said Anderson. She noted that this isn't the first time that Nike has given athletes freedom of expression. The company is also the official apparel company of the NFL.
"Nike's campaign will generate both attention and discussion which is, arguably, one of its central aims. However, it is also a somewhat risky strategy in that it addresses, and appears to take sides on, a highly politicized issue," said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData. "Nike likely weighed the risks beforehand but, in my view, while it is noble to take a stand on something it is also commercially imprudent to dash headlong into a very sensitive issue which polarizes opinion."
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