DES MOINES, Iowa -- Nike has created a firestorm of controversy with it's latest advertisement. "This is who they are. It's their 30th anniversary and so they are rehashing that rebel spirit," said Digital Marketing Agency founder Justin Wise of Think Digital.
In the Ad campaign, former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is heard saying, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” Now former Nike supporters are rebeling against them. Critics believe Nike is siding with Kaepernick who hasn't been on an NFL roster since his 2016 decision to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice and police brutality. "It is by nature a political issue. It is someone taking a stand for what they believe in," said Wise.
Iowans may think they are far removed from any debate with no NFL team in town but when both Iowa and Iowa State hit the field in Saturday's rivalry at Kinnick Stadium, fans will also see two of the top sixty-five most expensive collegiate endorsement deals in the country sporting a Nike swoosh. "It's a total projection but what universities see is 'hey these are cool clothes. Those are cool jerseys, but what's under that is the company's ideals," said Wise.
In 2016 Forbes reported the Iowa athletics department received two million dollars in 2016 from Nike, while Iowa State raked in nearly one and a half million. Recent contracts also report Iowa men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery personally benefited from $150,000 dollars from Nike annually. The company also hands out tens of thousands more to each school in performance incentives such as an NCAA final four appearance, conference championships or the football team finishing in the top five nationally at the end of the season. Wise said, "When they jump into bed and say we are taking on this company's ideals, we are taking on their philosophies their values, no one ever thinks about that until something like this happens."
As Nike faces backlash with people burning their clothing, Iowa and Iowa State student-athletes and their coaches may not even agree with Nike`s latest decision to back Kaepernick, but they will sport the logo because of million dollar contracts to just do it anyway. "Nike is saying hey we jive with this. We are in line with this and so you are seeing people respond to Nike but what they are really responding to is the issue underneath and central to the ad campaign which is Colin Kaepernick," said Wise.
Out of the fourteen Big Ten schools, Iowa's apparel contract in 2016 ranked 10th. In the same year, Iowa State had the lowest apparel contract out of the ten schools in the Big 12.