Nike's polarizing Kaepernick ad was 'good publicity' for the apparel company, Piper Jaffray says

  • Despite the uproar over Nike's Colin Kaepernick ad, Piper Jaffray remains overweight on the athletic apparel company.
  • It reminds investors that Nike weathered other controversial campaigns.
  • “Bottom line, we believe history has proven it is much more valuable to 'be there/visible' for major sports and social moments than to offer up a neutral position or no stance,” says analyst Erinn Murphy.
  • Nike featured Kaepernick in its 30th anniversary ad for its “Just Do It” campaign.
Colin Kaepernick is the latest face for Nike.
Source: Nike
Colin Kaepernick is the latest face for Nike.

Despite consumer backlash against Nike's Colin Kaepernick ad campaign, one analyst says the publicity should bode well for the athletic apparel company's bottom line.

"We view the publicity as good publicity," Erinn Murphy, Piper Jaffray senior research analyst, said in a note to clients Monday. "The controversy has not only bred commerce, but we view the influential consumers of the brand (think sneakerheads, GenZ, Millennials) stand with Nike on this ad."

Nike featured Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the national anthem demonstrations in 2016, in its 30th anniversary ad for its "Just Do It" campaign.

Other athletes joined Kaepernick's taking-a-knee protest against racial injustice, sparking a controversy that drew the blasts by President Donald Trump and has been linked to declining television ratings for National Football League games. Nike has continued its 2011 endorsement of Kaepernick despite the fact that he has not signed with an NFL team.

The apparel company is known for "pushing the boundaries of social and cultural norms," Murphy said. She highlighted Michael Jordan's NBA banned shoes in the 1980s, Charles Barkley's "I Am Not A Role Model" in 1993, Lance Armstrong's "What Am I On?" in 2001, gender equality campaigns, HIV/AIDS in 1995, and its 'What Will They Say About You" campaign in 2017.

"We remind investors Nike has consistently grown over time despite other controversial campaigns," Murphy said. "Bottom line, we believe history has proven it is much more valuable to 'be there/visible' for major sports and social moments than to offer up a neutral position or no stance."

The Kaepernick ad prompted a boycott from some consumers who were upset over its use of the polarizing quarterback. The stock dropped following the ad's debut, but Nike's online sales surged in the immediate few days thereafter and shares are up 1.8 percent last week. Share prices were flat Monday.

The company drew 170,000 new Instagram followers and record "likes," last week, even amidst a wave of anti-Nike comments, according to Wedbush Securities, which has a $90 price target on the stock.

Piper Jaffray still has an overweight rating on the stock and "remains positive," thanks to solid domestic demand, strength in China and ongoing traction in Europe. The firm has a $93 price target on the stock, roughly 11 percent above where the stock closed on Friday. Nike shares are up 33 percent this year, and were trading above $83 on Monday.