Portland Ad Agency Wieden + Kennedy Reportedly Pressured Nike to Use Colin Kaepernick in Advertising

"Nike agreed to it. We made it. Colin posted it. People lost it."

Wieden + Kennedy's Portland office. (Cameron Browne)

Nike's ad campaign featuring dissenting quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been a runaway success.

The company's stock closed at an all-time high last week. Online sales spiked. A backlash from crabby white boomers—please proceed to the comments section, gentlemen—probably helped the Beaverton sportswear giant with its target market: young people living in cities.

Last week, Nike CEO Mark Parker reportedly told Wall Street analysts that the Kaepernick campaign resulted in "record engagement with the brand."

The Portlanders who designed those ads may think Nike owes them a debt of gratitude.

A report by the New York Times this week says it was Portland ad agency Wieden + Kennedy that pressured Nike to make the quarterback the center of an ad campaign.

The story, which lays out a detailed timeline of Kaepernick's evolution from exile to icon, contains the first details about who should get credit for making Kaepernick a socially potent pitchman. The story says Nike nearly dropped Kaepernick from its roster of endorsers last year, until one executive quashed that idea. It also says Wieden + Kennedy, which manages the Nike account from Portland's Pearl District, came to the shoe giant this year with an idea for how to get Kaepernick off the bench.

"The advertising firm, which forged its reputation back in the 1980s when it crafted Nike's Michael Jordan ads with Spike Lee, made it clear that Kaepernick could provide real value," the Times story says. "With the NFL set to become a less important partner and its deal with the league locked up until 2028, Nike decided to listen."

Wieden + Kennedy has referred all questions about its work on the Kaepernick ads to Nike. Nike has declined to discuss with WW the details of Wieden + Kennedy's role. But a W+K designer based in Portland has placed a statement about the campaign on his website. It reads, in full:

This is a gargantuan project. W + K pushed to use Colin Kaepernick as the face of the 30th anniversary Just Do It campaign. Nike agreed to it. We made it. Colin posted it. People lost it.

In the first week after the campaign's release, Nike's online sales went up 31%. We were featured in Adweek, Adage, Buzzfeed, the NYT website, CBS News, Deadspin, Fox News, and many more. We were trending on twitter with 1.3mm tweets in the first 24 hours. Sometimes it's good to be good.

I laid out social, digital, and out of home posts, built key frames and helped sell the style of the spot, and continuously partnered with art directors to keep the campaign relevant and unified. Additionally, designed large format posters to be displayed at Nike WHQ.

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