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Nike CEO Mark Parker said executives are proud of the company's controversial, new ad campaign featuring former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, saying it strongly resonated with customers around the world and drove a record engagement on social media.
"How we look at it is how do we connect and engage in a way that's relevant and inspiring to the consumers that we're here to serve," he told analysts on an earnings call Tuesday. "Our brand strength ... is a key dimension that contributes to the ongoing momentum that we're building across the Nike portfolio."
He said executives "feel actually very good and very proud of the work" introducing the "Just Do It" marketing campaign to a new generation customers for the ad's 30th anniversary. Nike's shares fell in after-market trading despite posting double-digit earnings and revenue growth during the fiscal first quarter.
Earlier this month, Nike revealed a new ad campaign for the anniversary, featuring the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback.
The football player has become a lightning rod for controversy after kneeling, instead of standing, for the National Anthem during the 2016 season to protest police brutality against people of color.
The campaign divided American shoppers with some promising to boycott the brand on social media and initially pushing Nike shares down. The stock has since rebounded.
Industry analysts say the campaign should ultimately boost sales and momentum around the sneaker brand. Product orders on Nike.com surged in the days after the campaign was launched, according to Edison Trends, a digital-commerce researcher. And some items were selling out.
The ad, which features other athletes including Serena Williams and Lebron James, has since drawn record likes on social media. While some analysts said the move by Nike was risky, others say risky moves are necessary to stay relevant and ahead of peers.
"These are actually very inspiring athletes, and again we feel like that campaign has delivered on that message in a way that's really connected with people around the world," Parker said.
Nike is a global brand with a far-reaching audience — not all of its shoppers have been paying attention to American football, Allen Adamson, brand expert and co-founder of marketing solutions business Metaforce, told CNBC.
"No matter which athlete they choose, they will offend some customers," Adamson said. "If you try to please all people all the time, you will end up pleasing nobody."
Nike shares hit an all-time, intraday high of $86.04 on Friday, making up for any losses after the Kaepernick ad went viral. It's shares are up nearly 60 percent from a year ago. The retailer has a market cap of roughly $135.6 billion.