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Brief Published: 6 Sep 2018

Nike & Levi's Aim for Moonshots in Purpose-Driven Campaigns

Nike and Levi's launched groundbreaking campaigns this week, with both taking defiant stands on controversial issues. Prepared to put their reputations on the line, and unafraid to alienate parts of their fan base, both companies have set a benchmark for purpose-driven marketing in this hyper-polarised age.

Nike celebrated 30 years of its 'Just Do It' mantra with a campaign featuring ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who caused controversy in 2016 by kneeling at games during the National Anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. An emotive video spot and poster has social media all fired up, from those who support the brand's deal with Kaepernick (who's currently being shut out of the NFL), to those proclaiming they'll now boycott the brand.

It's easy to be cynical about such a marketing move – Nike can afford to lose a few fans and absorb a momentary four per cent drop in stock. But there's no denying that as an example to other brands who want to lead – not just reflect – the cultural conversation, the Nike-Kaepernick team-up has set a benchmark.

Despite the noise around Nike, it's Levi's that has really put its reputation on the line this week, launching a campaign for greater gun control in America. In an open letter for US business publication Fortune, Levi-Strauss CEO Chip Bergh wrote: "We simply cannot stand by silently when it comes to the issues that threaten the very fabric of the communities where we live and work. While taking a stand can be unpopular with some, doing nothing is no longer an option."

Levi's has established a $1m Safer Tomorrow Fund to "fuel the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America." The brand is also forming a coalition of business leaders to tackle the issue, and encouraging employees to use their paid volunteer time to "get more politically active."

Both these brands are trying to change things, but you might say Levi's has really put its money where its mouth is – it's aiming for the kind of moonshot we outline in Experiments in Moonshot Marketing.

For more on the future of purpose-driven marketing, see Taking Control of Trust, No Offence: Speak the Language of Now, and Brands Take A Stand.