Nike Takes a Stand for Equality in Politically-Charged America

February 13, 2017, 2:13 PM UTC

Nike is the latest big brand to embrace a more inclusive tone in a company advertisement.

Over the weekend, the world’s largest athletic-gear maker debuted a new film/advertisement called “Equality,” which features several Nike-endorsed athletes including NBA star LeBron James and tennis champion Serena Williams. The film aired during the Grammys and will also air again next weekend during the NBA All-Star game, a league that Nike will work with as the official apparel provider starting in the 2017-2018 season.

“Equality is about Nike raising its voice and using the power of sport to stand up for the value of equality and to inspire people to take action in their communities,” the company said in a statement. In a behind-the-scenes video featuring some of the star athletes, Williams summed up the tone of the film in her own words: “My view is that sometimes we as a people, we give everyone equal opportunity on the court. We give them equal chance. We look at them the same way,” she said. But she added that off the court, “We might overlook people or might say they don’t deserve the same opportunity. When in all actuality, we all [do].”

The “Equality” film—which comes with a $5 million commitment by Nike to organizations that advance equality in the U.S.—is the latest stance by a big brand to use advertising to make a bigger social statement. During the Super Bowl this year, a handful of ads were viewed through a political/social lens, including Coca-Cola’s (KO) “America the Beautiful” spot, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s (BUD) immigrant founder ad, and 84 Lumber’s Mexican immigrant ad.

Nike’s move to advocate for equality also comes as rival Under Armour (UAA) found itself embroiled last week with a Trump-related controversy after CEO and founder Kevin Plank praised President Donald Trump. Those comments led to a social media-driven boycotts and also statements that rebutted his support from some of the brand’s top minority athletes—NBA star Stephen Curry, ballerina Misty Copeland, and actor/former pro wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. To be clear, Nike’s ad—which featured the brand’s diverse slate of star athletes—was clearly planned well before the Under Armour situation and was in no way a response to that controversy.

“Together with our athletes, employees and communities, we are encouraging people to take the respect and fairness they see on the field and translate it off the field. We can help advance the conversation and create lasting change,” Nike said.

The company is planning to sell “Equality” t-shirts and footwear along with the company’s annual Black History Month Collection. Nike will also plan to launch the campaign on social media and on billboards and posters in the U.S. and Canada.

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