Nike ($NKE) took a calculated gamble when it enlisted Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback whose decision to protest the national anthem sparked countrywide controversy, to be one of the faces of its "Just Do It" campaign. The data shows that it has paid off for Nike.

Not only did Nike's stock push past the $83 mark, but its social media following scaled to new levels. Users on both Twitter and Facebook began following and talking about Nike at unprecedented levels. While it's too early to measure the effect this will have on Nike's quarterly numbers, it's worth exploring as a case study for how the campaign launched Nike's brand to new heights.

Followers flock to Nike's Twitter in days after campaign

The newest "Just Do It" campaign was teased on September 3 by Kaepernick in a Tweet that did not use the Nike logo, but included its signature tagline.

At first, the tweet did not do much for Nike's Twitter following. In fact, there was very little growth in the company's account, almost as if it was another day in September. During the first three days of the month, Nike gained 1125 followers on September 1st, 1195 on the 2nd, and only 835 on the 3rd.

And then the campaign launched, and Nike's Twitter followers took off.

From September 4 to September 7, Nike gained 146,029 followers. It was the largest period of sustained growth in company history, with the only other similar sustained period of growth happening in July 2016.

Date Net Change in Nike Twitter Followers
9/5/18 50420
9/6/18 38736
9/7/18 30766
7/26/16 29489
9/4/18 26107
7/29/16 23907
10/21/15 22548
3/17/15 20832
7/27/16 18229
7/28/16 17940

On September 5, Nike's account gained over 50,000 followers, something that was not seen in our data since we began tracking the company in 2015. On that same day, President Donald Trump tweeted out how the company was getting "killed," and yet, whether it was anti-Trump Twitter users following Nike out of spite or otherwise, the company was not dying in the slightest on social media.

There is, of course, another reason why Trump would Tweet what he did. During this time period — right when the stock markets opened back up after the weekend — Nike's stock tumbled down past the $80 mark. When he sent his Tweet, Nike was trading at the level it was at in mid-August.

However, this would soon rebound alongside another metric we track in our database: Facebook data.

"Talking About" the Swoosh

Over time, Nike's "Talking About" metric on Facebook fluctuates from only tens of thousands of mentions, to hundreds of thousands of "stories" about the brand.

Nike's recent campaign in September helped the brand reach its highest "Talking About" count in months with 434,932 impressions on September 13, nearly a week after the "Just Do It" advertisement package launched. The only other time it reached these heights for a sustained period this year was in March during a major misconduct scandal.

For comparison's sake, Nike's main shoe rival, Adidas ($XETRA:ADS), has yet to cross the 300,000 "Talking About" threshold in 2018.

As Nike continued to pick up steam, its stock price also rose back up to, and past, the value it was at before the Labor Day weekend.

With the sheer amount of exposure Nike is getting, it will be interesting to see how its first fiscal half sales numbers net out, as that would cement this controversial advertisement campaign's success.

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