Working at the idea that Nike uses this campaign in order to facilitate a connection between themselves and their consumers, I also see their use of “plain folks appeal” (Woolfolk Cross 2). “Plain folks appeal” is said to be a method where an individual, in this case a corporation, aims to win their audience’s confidence and support by trying to relate to them, as if they are like one another (Woolfolk Cross 2). The film “Equality” aims to do this visually, musically, and psychologically. For instance, this is shown in the language of the film. When Michael B. Jordan uses the word “we,” Nike puts themselves and their viewer at the same level.
This is a tactic to make the watcher feel as if they go through the same struggles, the same issues, and feel the same emotions, once again trying to relate to whoever is watching. Furthermore, the depictions of little black boys and girls playing in their neighborhoods or grown men playing ball at the park are aimed to feel familiar to the viewer, so they maybe be able to relate. Nike uses these depictions to get the viewer to feel as if the brand understands and empathizes with their audience, making it seem like the company and their consumer are not so different.
As watchers, people automatically can put themselves into the role of one of those boys playing football or one of those girls playing tennis, like they see on the screen. So as people can see themselves, their sons, daughters, friends, and loved ones in these roles of everyday men women and children, they also can relate to the injustice of inequality in America. Therefore, presenting a film like this persuades the viewer to see Nike in a different light, to allow them to feel that they are one of them, rather than a huge, money-hungry corporation.
The fault in this is, once again, this method Nike uses in order to draw in customers. Nike is a athletic footwear manufacture. They are not a nonprofit organization that working toward ending inequality. Nike is not one of “us,” in fact, they will never be one of “us. ” What they are instead is an extremely wealthy, extremely lucrative multi-billion dollar corporation. While they may genuinely support this rhetoric of “Equality having no boundaries,” their main object is, and will always be, to gain revenue (“Equality”).
This is expressed by Woolfolk Cross stating, “The irrelevancy of the plain-folks appeal is obvious: even if the man is ‘one of us’ (which may not be true at all), that doesn’t mean that his ideas and programs are sound or even that he honestly has our best interests at heart” (2). It may sound nice and pleasing to hear that Nike is donating $5 million in order to end equality, and it also may be uplifting to watch a film dedicated to end discrimination, but all in all, Nike is aiming to sell their merchandise.
That is why as soon as this campaign launched, plain black t-shirts went on sale with the word “Equality,” spread across the front, along with their line of Black History Month merchandise as well. Nike knew they could connect with their viewer and make them feel as if they were on the same team, then aimed to make a profit off it. One of the many aspects this commercial has in common with sports is the power of the “Bandwagon” (Woolfolk Cross 4). In all sports, there’s going to be a team that is hot and trending at a moment in time.
One could say this team is anywhere that LeBron James moves to or it could be anyone who is on a winning streak, either way, it is often people support things simply because they are considered to be “popular” among others (Woolfolk Cross 4). Woolfolk Cross believes the bandwagon technique is effective because it “appeals to the strong desire in most of us to be one of the crowd, not to be left out alone” (4). In other words, because everyone else is interested or invested in something, it makes an individual want to a part of movement too, so they may feel included. This is what Nike’s “Equality” commericial does.
In a country where there is so much controversy based on human rights and discrimination right now, Nike uses this time of vulnerability in the citizens to sell their product. If Nike truly set out to bring attention to equality in America, why not just release the commercial without the merchandise behind it? It is simple. Nike wants to make money more than they ever could care about the inequality within this world. Of course a majority of people are going to support a campaign labeled “Equality” during a time while millions of women are marching for their rights and thousands of people are protesting the lost lives of African Americans.
The majority of America right now feels like there is a social unbalance in the country, and are speaking up about it. So releasing an ad campaign like “Equality,” makes these people want to be included in the“bandwagon,” it makes them want to support Nike because it appears that Nike supports them (Woolfolk Cross 4). Therefore, if these people wear a plain, black shirt with the words “Equality” across it, they feel as if they are now part of the movement against inequality as well, when in reality, they have only done two things.
They have paid for an overpriced black t-shirt and have also made Nike a bit richer that day, neither contributing to resolution to inequality. But since we are in a time of people wanting to be a part of the movement combatting injustice, a simple shirt makes these same people feel involved, feel important, and most of all, feel included. Finally, the last method used in this advertisement is the use of “testimonial” (Woolfolk Cross 8). “Testimonial” is a strategy that features some “loved or respected person,” or people, who give their support to something ( Woolfolk Cross 8).
Nike is especially notorious for this. Having almost every high profile, professional athlete under their endorsement, they utilize that perk within this film. As I said previously, big name athletes and celebrities, alike, are featured within this commercial including LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Kevin Durant. This, once again, is a simple strategy to not only gain more attention to the ad, but somehow give the ad more credibility among its viewers. Due to the love, and sometimes, obsessions fans have for these famous figures, they apply that same love and admiration to the brand these figures represent.
Nike knows this and intentionally utilizes this in their favor. They explicitly use these celebrities in order to make it seem like they are aligned with these big name athletes to solve inequality, but they are actually in partnership with them to make a dollar. These famous individuals are promoters of the product, they most likely know little to nothing about how to change the world or how to make the country less divided. Woolfolk Cross points this out saying, “Using the name of a man who is skilled and famous in one field to give a testimonial for something in another field is unfair and unreasonable” (8).
By giving a “testimonial”, it means an individual gives their support, they give their stamp of approval (Woolfolk Cross 8). However, it does not mean they’re an expert on what they are speaking on and it certainly does not mean they are qualified to change the world, nevermind end inequality. None of these athletes, artists, or actors are civil rights activists, nor are they leaders of the social justice movement. The only thing that they are, are figureheads for Nike, because ultimately both them and Nike are simply trying to get paid.
All in all, Nike is a corporation, a multi-billion dollar business that’s main objective is to make an even larger profit, to gain even more revenue. While it may be pleasurable to the ear that they are advertising equality for all, equality is not what they are promoting. Instead, they are advertising their brand and disguising it with a well produced film centered around what seems like equality, but is actually is a line oftshirts and sneakers. Nike is not looking to save the world, they are not even looking to make a change in the country. What Nike is aiming to do, however, is make a profit.