Nike’s VP of Marketing explains how the brand is tackling racism and social justice

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  • Like many brands, Nike has been forced to alter its marketing strategy throughout 2020.
  • The sportswear leader has taken an active approach when it comes to fighting racial injustice and promoting causes such as voter registration and staying home to stop the spread of coronavirus .
  • “One of the company’s values ​​has always been to do the right thing,” Adrienne Lofton, vice president of North American marketing for Nike, said during a panel discussion Wednesday at the virtual conference. This year. THOSE conference.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests that have spread across America have put brands in the awkward position of finding the right thing to say during times of high tension across the country.

Like many companies, Nike needed to change its brand voice in 2020. And when it came to figuring out how to do it, it turned to one of its core principles.

“One of the company’s values ​​has always been to do the right thing,” said Adrienne Lofton, vice president of North American marketing for Nike during a panel discussion at this week’s virtual conference. year. THOSE conference on Wednesday. “And so when we found ourselves in the midst of racial injustice and this idea that we needed to redefine the conversation, the first thing we knew was that we believe sport has the power to change the world.”

Read more: Trevor Edwards was the highest-ranked black employee at Nike until 2018. Today, the former executive guides new brands on diversity and inclusion 2 years after his high-profile ousting from the sportswear giant.

Nike, a leader in sportswear, has taken an active approach to fighting racial injustice and inequality. According to Lofton, the brand knows the power it wields when it comes to influencing other industry giants to drive change. For example, Nike was one of the first companies to take a public stand against racism in May. The company launched a video campaign with the slogan “Don’t do it”, urging viewers not to turn their backs on racism. Other brands like Adidas and Under Armor also posted similar messages on social media.

“In fact, you can’t be goal-driven unless you’re comfortable being uncomfortable potentially making mistakes,” Lofton said. “And Nike has never been afraid to lean in and potentially make a mistake if that’s what we believe in.”

Nike’s recent response to racial injustice ended up offering a roadmap for how Nike would deal with complex issues in the future. Lofton said the company eventually built something called the “Purpose Playbook” for Nike North America, which outlined how and when the company would get involved in social justice and civil equality causes.

This handbook has helped Nike address new causes such as voting record, said Lofton. Nike has partnered with Rock the vote and when we all vote, two non-partisan organizations, to help people register to vote. Nike has also collaborated with Lyft on an initiative to provide discounted rides to people in communities with limited access to surveys.

An equally active approach has been taken to messaging around the pandemic. As Lofton explained, Nike is a brand that thrives on experience. But when the pandemic forced shutdowns in many states, Nike pivoted its messaging to encourage people to stay home. The marketing team launched a simple black-and-white social media post that encouraged Americans to “play inside and play for the world.”

“It was so simple, but the idea was right,” Lofton said, adding that the post received levels of engagement that were the highest the brand had seen in years.

Lofton added that “the world seemed to stop and rejoice through the lens of sport” at times in 2020, even in the midst of a global pandemic. As she said, sports fans and athletes around the world got to watch the evolution of the NBA bubble and enjoy the release of the hugely popular ESPN Michael Jordan docuseries, “The Last Dance.”

“It was our reminder that sport is bigger than sport,” Lofton said. “And when the world needs to be invigorated and find purpose, and keep moving forward into this tomorrow, sport is the reason.”

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