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As Nike Faces A Boycott Over Its Colin Kaepernick Campaign We Remember Some Of Fashion’s Most Controversial Ads

© Nike

#JustBurnIt and #BoycottNike are trending on Twitter

On Monday 3rd September American Football player Colin Kaepernick posted a picture of his face along with the inspirational message “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” on his Twitter account. Sportswear giants Nike then retweeted the image, announcing the start of their latest advertising campaign and new partnership with the quarterback, one of the first NFL players to protest against police brutality and racial injustice during the US national anthem back in 2016.

Nike described Kaepernick as "one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation", and sports and TV personalities have flocked to social media to show their support for new campaign marking the 30 year anniversary of the original 'Just Do It' ads (Serena Williams, who also features in the campaign, tweeted she was “especially proud to be a part of the Nike family today”). But, as President Trump labels Nike’s decision to feature Kaepernick as a "terrible message", the campaign has also sparked a phenomenal backlash in from conservatives and opponents of the NFL players' movement in America.

The hashtags #JustBurnIt and #BoycottNike are trending on Twitter alongside videos of customers burning their Nike shoes, images of cutting the brand's famous tick out of their products and pledges to only shop at Nike's biggest competitors. Meanwhile, according to The Wall Street Journal, the protest surrounding the latest campaign saw shares of Nike's stock 'fall by 2.9% on Tuesday'.

Despite the backlash, it seems the divisive nature of the campaign and the 10-year deal with Kaepernick serves to benefit Nike. According to Apex Marketing Group, in the first 24 hours since the announcement the brand is reported to have made over $43 million in media exposure. While the buzz around Nike's ad is the topic of the moment, it's certainly not the first time a label has polarized opinion with a campaign. Adverts and brand campaigns have long been vessels for raising awareness and effecting change, but the lines between creating a conversation and scandal are often blurred.

Under the helm of art director and provocateur Oliviero Toscani, United Colours of Benetton regularly sparked global backlash with politically-charged ads in the 1980s and '90s, but in 2000 Toscani was fired from the house in 2000 after his Sentenced To Death campaign featured 26 death row inmates staring to camera. The ad caused sales to plummit as murder victims’ families lobbied retailers and consumers to boycott the brand. Other labels such as Tom Ford, Dolce & Gabbana and MiuMiu have been criticised for a poorly-judged shock factor or sexualisation and even seen their ad campaigns banned

And with Edelman's Earned Brand Study suggesting 57 percent of consumers will buy or boycott a brand because of its position on an issue, the stakes are high when it comes to an advert sparking a global debate.

As Bob Dorfman, a marketing executive at Baker Street Advertising, tells Bloomberg the polarizing tactic is "definitely smart business" for Nike, he also warns "it's not a move that any company can make." With these words in mind, we take a look back at some of the good, the bad and the ugly of controversial ad campaigns.