Commodity Activism Faces Skepticism

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photo courtesy of vox.com

by LIZBETH ZAMBRANO

For the past decade, social movements have continued to become prevalent in our society, thus propelling companies such as Nike to capitalize on these movements in order to boost their sales. 

According to www.forbes.com, “Having a strong sense of purpose, that inspires an emotional connection, and commitment to your brand is exactly how Nike achieved an all-time high in share prices, on account of giving a platform to athlete-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick in 2018.” One of Nike’s largest target-audiences is young athletes and in going after them, they are targeting a more racially diverse generation than ever before. Marketing their brand as being one for activists has only led to all-time high share prices. 

This form of activism has been named, “commodity activism,” in which companies exploit a social issue and brand themselves to be socially aware. 

There are two schools of thought, one of them being that having this image of a comprehensive brand is pure hypocrisy and the other is that regardless of the intention, Nike is at least still shedding light onto different issues. 

According to www.imd.org, “Nike, Puma, Unilever and others who tie their fortunes, short or long-term, to social movements believe they are acting in the best interests of their stakeholders while seizing an opportunity to make their companies better. If a consequence is that society becomes a better place as a result, then that’s OK too.” This argument supports the company’s methods because in a capitalist society, that is the only way companies can survive. 

Despite having an inclusive image, Nike has time and time again failed its female athletes. American professional runner, Mary Cain published an op-ed in the New York Times in December that alleged that she was abused while participating in the Nike-endorsed Oregon Project, which is coached by Alberto Salazar. Since then, more female athletes have come forward alleging they had been both mentally and physically abused by Salazar.  

Overall, as companies continue to profit off different movements, consumers must establish an inner monologue that will aid them in making the most educated decision and fosters this necessary long-term habit of questioning companies and acting on knowledge gained.

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