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Published March 16th 2017

Diversity, Inclusion, and the Pro Hijab: Social Media Reflects Nike’s Social Conscience

Kellan Terry analyzes how Nike's products and campaigns addressing larger, civic issues like body-positivity and diversity have been received on social.

The brand that is so big and powerful that it will neither suffer from this post if it were critical, nor prosper from it if it were praise. However, if I had to choose, I’m about to make a data-driven case for why Nike understands the current state of the world better than most companies.

My time at Brandwatch has been filled with the analysis of how brands successfully and mistakenly navigate their social conversations.

I’ve quantified the outrage they’ve faced, and measured the positive conversations they generate with product releases, marketing initiatives, ad campaigns and sheer luck of viral coincidence and timing.

The social climate of today is decidedly different than the landscape of a year ago. The reason is both simple and massive: politics. I’ve followed the data around the US Presidential Election from the very beginning – Spring 2015 – and how brands have become entangled with politics after the election’s result in November.

It is far harder for brands to remain neutral now. Some brands, like people, have decided they need to take civic positions. By making a statement they face the likelihood of alienating some potential and current consumers. You’ve seen the headlines and the polarized positions people have taken on brands who have made public – and perceived to be political – positions.

Nike has realized this, and has adapted far sooner than most brands. To the data.

Nike’s general social conversation is expectedly huge. Being one of the world’s most recognizable brands has meant that Nike has been mentioned around 5 million times in the past two months online.

When we look at day-over-day mentions of Nike, we can clearly see a conversation spike on March 7th and 8th. These two days account for over 366,000 mentions of Nike alone since February 1st.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 12.02.27 PM_BW.png

*Chart at 10% sample.

The reason for the mention spike for these two days is Nike’s announcement of its Pro Hijab. The second-largest, single-day mention total was on February 12th with over 101,000 mentions of Nike. These are the only three days that saw over 100,000 mentions in a day since February 1st.

The mentions on February 12th were driven by Nike’s Equality commercial which directly addresses gender, racial and ethnic equality on fields of play and beyond.

These two social issues drove Nike’s online conversation. When we overlay a chart that looks for mentions of these civic issues from within Nike’s online conversation we see the correlation more clearly.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 12.19.56 PM_BW.png

*Chart at 10% sample.

We specifically searched for discussions of Nike products and campaigns that address larger, civic issues like body-positivity and diversity, including:

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 12.31.04 PM_BW.png

Diversity, as represented by mentions of Nike’s Pro Hijab account for nearly 100,000 mentions or 59-percent of all civic issue related mentions. Nike’s Equality commercial registered over 55,000 mentions for 33-percent of civic mentions, and the body-positive mentions of Nike’s first plus-size offering account for over 13,000 mentions.

Nike’s overall social conversation for the past two months is positive at a rate of 81.3-percent of all sentiment-categorized mentions.

When we look at the sentiment within the mentions of Nike’s worldly issue products and campaigns we see that sentiment is more varied than their overall conversation.

Nike’s Equality campaign was met with widespread social praise, and its sentiment reflects that as 91.3-percent of all categorized mentions of the campaign and commercial were positive.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 12.49.08 PM_BW.png

Nike’s plus-size line did see trolls enter the social conversation, and as a result the body positive initiative’s sentiment fell to 66.4-percent positive.

Mentions of the Pro Hijab, which we marked as “Diversity”, saw the most split in mention sentiment as 50.7-percent of categorized mentions are actually negative. This polarization is the reason why the Pro Hijab and diversity are talked about so much more than the other two issues.

There is a major difference in the dissension within mentions of Nike’s plus-size offering and its Pro Hijab. While the body positivity conversation faces social trolls, the diversity discussion is met with actual ideological contempt.

A great, recent example of the polarized outlook faced by Nike’s Pro Hijab can be found by looking at the debate surrounding the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released its findings regarding the AHCA, and depending on your political ideology, the AHCA will either save the country $337 billion in ten years, or 24 million people will be uninsured in the same time period.

Both sides will use the data point that best suits their argument while ignoring the other.

This is the same type of logic we see in the mentions of Nike’s Pro Hijab. People praising the Pro Hijab are taking the position of inclusivity. Most negative mentions of the Pro Hijab are taking the stance of oppression, and that hijabs are forced upon Muslim women. It is this debate that drives mentions, and the conversational sentiment split.

This social landscape didn’t exist a year, ago, but now it does. It exists and brands need to know that neutrality online – especially on social media – is exceedingly difficult to achieve. Brands used to avoid taking sides in a raging social debate, but now they need to know exactly what they stand for, and be prepared to declare their position – just like Nike.

There has been talk of competitors like Adidas making up ground on Nike with high-profile celebrity collaborations and a high fashion strategy, but Nike appears to be the most aware of the current state of the world. Nike is establishing its values and where it stands in these tumultuous times. Nike is not only recognizing the state of everything, but choosing to actively participate; without fear, or trepidation.

Nike sent a direct message with its Equality commercial stating that equality’s place is not only in the arenas of sport, but everywhere. It’s Pro Hijab is a product that provides an option for athletes to choose what they wish to compete in, and its plus-size line shows that athletes come in all shapes and sizes. These products and campaigns speak for themselves, and if you don’t know where Nike stands, you haven’t been paying attention.

Regardless, the data shows the social firestorm that Nike has consciously entered, and will purposefully navigate.

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