How brave copywriting can change the ad industry

Off the back of the new Nike campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick launched to celebrate 30 years of ‘Just do it’, Claire Baldwin investigates how creative copywriting in advertising can both inspire a generation and cause major controversy.


Unless you’ve quite literally been living under a rock, you’ll have heard about Nike’s new campaign. Even if you know nothing more than that some people are burning their trainers, you’ll be aware that this campaign has exploded.

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The decision to use former NFL player Colin Kaepernick as the main face of the brand’s Dream Crazy campaign has been criticised by some. Kaepernick garnered attention back in 2016 when he knelt during the national anthem in protest of police brutality. Some thought the act was unpatriotic, and Nike’s involvement with Kaepernick has led them to boycott the brand. People have shown themselves cutting the iconic ‘swoosh’ logo off their socks or even burning Nike trainers to show their disapproval. 

Although some disagree with Kaepernick’s actions, many stand by him and are inspired by the ‘take a knee’ protest. While the backlash may make it seem like the campaign was a huge misstep, Nike’s stocks actually hit an all-time high just 10 days after launching the campaign, and their online sales shot up by a huge 31%.


Share a message that you can be proud of

Along with the increase in profits, another big win for Nike from this campaign is the message itself. It focuses on pursuing your dreams even if they seem unattainable, and not letting other people’s expectations hold you back. This theme of bravery and self-belief is something that everyone can be inspired by. It works because it’s a message aimed at real, flawed humans and not at ‘the ideal customer’.

The Dream Crazy film features a host of inspirational figures from pro athletes like LeBron James and Serena Williams to emerging talents like 10-year-old wrestler Isaiah Bird, who was born without legs, and Ironman Charlie Jabaley, who reversed the growth of a lifelong brain tumor through diet and exercise.

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The range of campaign posters is full of bold, inspirational copy that sparks passion and a desire to be your best self. While they don’t insinuate that buying Nike products will make you the fastest runner in the world, the campaign shows that you can succeed even if the odds are against you. Nike reminds us that the first step to achieving a goal is to “Just Do It”.


Brave copy can make a campaign

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but just a few words could be worth billions of pounds. Distilling your company’s philosophy into a memorable phrase can create an entire culture around your brand and give customers something bigger to support than just a product. What message do you want your customers to take away from your advert? That your product is good, or that your company is influential?

The words you use can be more powerful than what you’re actually selling. While not all companies have the brand recognition to rely on the message alone, every campaign is a chance for you to shout about yourself and to do something different. You don’t have to be cheeky. You don’t have to please everyone. You don’t have to make a political statement. You just have to say something.

Nike’s latest campaign shows that you can reach huge audiences and create a media buzz with brave adverts that take a stand rather than simply explaining the benefits of a product. It’s likely that many more brands will also follow suit and try to replicate this edgy and inspirational campaign, but it will be interesting to see who succeeds in motivating their audience and who ends up provoking them instead.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Claire has over 10 years' copywriting experience across a range of print and digital media, working with a variety of styles, formats and tones of voice. She has written as part of an in-house team client side, as well as at marketing agencies based in the East Midlands. Claire's services include copywriting, copy editing, content creation and proofreading.