Nike Inc.’s controversial ad campaign starring Colin Kaepernick debuted three days after the end of the company’s first quarter, but that didn’t stop executives from discussing the impact of the campaign during a first-quarter earnings call.
“We feel very good and proud of the work that we’re doing,” Chief Executive Mark Parker said. His comments were some of his first public remarks on the campaign, and he didn’t mention Kaepernick by name. “It’s driving a real uptick in traffic and engagement, both socially and commercially.”
Nike reported mixed results Tuesday, and shares dropped as much as 4.6 percent in after-hours trading. The company fell short of consensus estimates on gross margin and some overseas revenue, while overall revenue posted double-digit growth to $9.9 billion. North American sales, which had stalled in recent years, grew 6 percent to $4.14 billion.
Nike’s first quarter ended Aug. 31, so the underlying numbers don’t include any fallout from the Kaepernick advertisement, which went public on Sept. 3. Shares dipped following the ad’s release, but Nike quickly erased those losses. Last week shares traded at an all-time high $86.04.
The campaign drew wide praise from Wall Street analysts, who saw the the ad as a clever way to cater to Nike’s main U.S. customers — young, diverse city-dwellers who are more likely to agree with Kaepernick’s position on police brutality and racism in America.
Research from Edison Trends, which scans receipt data from more than 200 online retailers (including Nike.com) also suggests that the company’s online sales have been tracking ahead of last year in the new quarter.
The ad campaign also drew an outpouring of support, both from the professional athlete community and from other consumers. Actress Jenifer Lewis wore a Nike sweatshirt on the red carpet at the Emmy Awards and praised both Kaepernick and the company.
Kaepernick, 30, hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016. He’s currently suing the league for collusion.