We’ve said it over and over, t-shirts are the best form of advertising. In the sports apparel industry, t-shirts play a dual role: Marketing to the buyer is one strategy. The buyer/wearer then serves as the remarketer, clothed in the brand’s message and presenting it to like-minded individuals who see it as an endorsement for the company. That strategy played a part in why Nike struck a deal with Colin Kapernick, according to a New York Times article, but it hasn’t been without some hiccups.
“In the summer of 2017, a debate raged in Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., over whether to cut loose the controversial, unemployed quarterback.” Eventually, Nike made the decision to take the risk, “When the company did decide to embrace the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, it risked angering the National Football League, a Nike partner since 2012, but the company ultimately decided it was a risk worth taking, given the credibility the company would gain with the young, urban market it has long targeted.”
In targeting the “young urban market,” Nike knew the controversy it was about to unleash, but in the aftermath of the decision to move forward, the Nike brand is playing a bigger role in the American conversation on racism, sports, civil rights, politics, and the divisions in American society on what it all means.
Four days ago, based on a tip, writer Shaun King published a tweet showing a series of Union County Sheriff’s Department mugshots where the accused are all wearing Nike t-shirts. Was it a political statement crafted by the Sheriff? According to a statement released by his office, Sheriff Ricky Roberts dismisses the allegation, claiming the t-shirts were given to the department and inmates were only told to wear them if they did not have on proper attire. But the story and the mugshots are stirring outrage and debate on social media. Even Snopes weighed in. At this printing, most of the mugshots have been taken down, but Snopes found several still posted on Arrests.org, dating up until August of this year, all prior to the Nike/Kapernick announcement on September 4th.
“It should be noted that our examination of the mugshots on Arrests.org didn’t yield any specific patterns about who was given Nike shirts to wear. The vast majority of mugshotted by the Union County Sheriff’s Department between 1 September 2018 and 11 October 2018 were not wearing Nike shirts,” said Snopes.com.
In the wake of the controversy, an influx of branded t-shirts are expected to be donated from vendors interested in advertising their business from attorneys to bail bonds companies. Doubtful the sheriff will take anyone up on the gesture.