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Nike Orders Rose in Four-Day Period After Kaepernick Ad Debut

Online sales of Nike Inc. apparel and shoes surged in the four days after quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick became the face of a new advertising campaign. Sales dipped in the same four-day period last year.

Nike’s Kaepernick ad debuted Monday afternoon, a U.S. holiday, drawing immediate praise and ire from celebrities and customers alike. From Sunday through Wednesday, product orders rose 27 percent, according to digital-commerce researcher Edison Trends, which collects receipt data from over 200 online vendors. In the same four-day period last year, product orders dropped 2 percent.

It’s an early, if incomplete, look at how the world’s largest sportswear company may fare after deliberately wading into a hot political topic. The decision to feature the former NFL playerhe claims he’s been illegally barred from the league for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequalityhas already drawn multiple criticisms from President Donald Trump. On Friday morning Trump tweeted: “What was Nike thinking?”

It’s not a big mystery. Nike believes that the campaign will create more business than it loses. Two-thirds of Nike’s customers are younger than 35, and it’s an ethnically diverse group. The company is also looking to focus more on cities. The demographic mix also suggest outsize support for Kaepernick’s actions.

If the company miscalculated, it probably won’t be obvious for a long time. The short-term data from Edison Trends includes both customers who went out and bought Nike gear to explicitly support the campaign as well as those for whom the ad made no difference. It doesn’t account for past Nike customers who say they’ll never buy the company’s shoes or apparel again. That impact on sales could take years to fully play out.

Nike’s stock was down 2.2 percent over the four days as of 2:15 p.m. in New York, lagging behind a 1 percent drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

—With assistance from Nancy Moran.