Nike recently announced a new product catered for Muslim women. Mainly to tackle sports athletes who observed the religious act of head covering, Nike designed this hijab to be the best solution. The fabric is made up of lightweight polyester that features tiny holes for optimal breathability, super-stretchy to accommodate the wearer, and designed using fluff threads to make things comfortable.
This reveal sparked a blitz of comments by netizens- some praised Nike for its thoughtfulness and embracing diversity, others criticized it for normalizing the oppression of women. Many have taken to Twitter to press Nike with tweets, calling out consumers not to purchase Nike products and essentially #BoycottNike.
A ticked-off customer. Image Source: https://goo.gl/m1QBxN
Nevertheless, a growing counter to these criticism were athletes like Zahra Lari, Manal Rostom, and Amna Al Haddad, a weightlifter, an Olympian. Amna Al Haddad defended the product saying, ‘It is a recent phenomenon where more women have expressed a need for it and more professional athletes have fought for rights to compete with a headscarf, and have an equal playing field. We made it big in the news, we couldn’t be ignored.’
As a company specializing in marketing, this play by Nike does appear to come at a right time despite the backlash. Firstly, the recent Rio Olympics were a significant moment for Muslim female athletes as more athletes wore the hijab in competition, from Ibtihaj Muhammad the U.S fencer to the Egyptian volleyball team. Also, Nike’s current marketing campaign appears to target women as the two recent commercials are about empowering women. From a marketing standpoint, Nike is running into a market which was previously explored only by smaller sports brands like Oiselle or Malaysia’s own Ash Be Nimble.
Zahra Lari. Image Source: https://goo.gl/YxDqJN
While Nike has received attacks, it appears the wall will stand firm. Arguably the most successful sportswear company, Nike will undoubtedly dribble its way through this, evading criticisms and gaining more support in a world of political correctness and acceptance. As more people talk about this, whether in anger or praise, Nike as a brand is taking centre stage, and that is great branding. Nike, well played.
*Marketing Connection is a digital marketing company that specializes in website design and online marketing in Penang. We love to help new businesses to grow their business further.