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Nike's Activist Ad Activates Shoppers

by Arye Zucker - May 16, 2019

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Nike's controversial ad featuring Colin Kaepernick scored the brand public accolades and online shoppers showed their support with their dollars. According to Rakuten Intelligence, revenue from Nike-branded goods in the Apparel & Accessories, Shoes, and Sports and Outdoors categories increased 32.3 percent in the 27 days after the campaign launched compared to the same period the year prior, growth that outpaced the category by 6.4 percentage points.

Of course, Nike was not the first brand to take a stand on social issues. Patagonia, which sued the Trump Administration over its environmental policies and, more recently, closed its stores on Election Day to encourage voting; and REI, which has put environmental activism at the core of its brand for years, have also made politically charged, socially conscious stands. Rakuten Intelligence found that online shoppers do show affinity for these brands, with 19.1 percent of category buyers choosing Patagonia, Nike, or REI over the past year.

The study also indicated that buyers do shop across Nike, Patagonia, and REI, but only slightly:  just 8.9 percent of those who shopped an activist brand purchased an additional the activist brand in the past year. Only 1.1 percent of buyers bought from all three brands, but Patagonia buyers were the most likely to do so, with 10.7 percent also shopping at REI and buying Nike products. About 7 percent of REI buyers picked up Patagonia and Nike goods, and only 1.4 percent of Nike buyers shopped the other brands.

Being politically conscious attracts younger and more affluent buyers

We looked at online buyers of these three activist brands and found they are younger than the average buyers in the studied categories. Only 22.5 percent of e-commerce buyers in these categories are in the 25-34 age group, whereas that group makes up 24.2 percent of Nike buyers, 27.8 percent of Patagonia buyers, 27.5 percent of REI buyers. That differential, while smaller, remains for 35-44 year-olds, who comprise 19.8 percent of category buyers online. REI, is the most popular retailer among this age group, followed closely by Nike, and while Patagonia trails, with 35 to 44 year-olds accounting for 22.9 percent of brand buyers, it still over-indexes in popularity among this age group relative to the category.

Patagonia buyers are more brand agnostic while Nike buyers are more loyal

A whopping 91.1 percent of buyers who buy any of these brands buy only one, and most of those one-stop-shoppers--76.2 percent--buy Nike alone.

An examination of sales on the three brands’ websites revealed a similar trend. Among shoppers on Nike.com, 92 percent bought exclusively from Nike.com, compared with 62.4 percent of REI.com buyers and 42.6 percent of Patagonia.com buyers.

Nike buyers are fiercely loyal

While Patagonia buyers are more brand-agnostic

Unlike the rest of e-commerce, Amazon doesn’t own these categories

In an unexpected turn, especially for this blog, the data shows Amazon isn’t the all-encompassing, unbeatable giant it typically is in these categories. Yes, it’s still the second largest merchant when it comes to Nike purchases, but Amazon generates 74.3 percent less Nike revenue online than Nike.com, and 17.1 percent fewer buyers.

The news is even better for Patagonia. The top merchant for online sales of Patagonia goods in the previously mentioned categories is Patagonia.com, followed by REI, Nordstrom, Moosejaw, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Amazon. Amazon generates 96.1 percent less revenue off of Patagonia merchandise than Patagonia itself, and 93.5 percent fewer buyers.

“This data shows clear evidence that brands can drive short term lifts in sales by capitalizing on political tailwinds,” says Ken Cassar, principal analyst, Rakuten Intelligence. “The long term impact, though, of potentially alienating future buyers can’t be captured. Playing with political passions is playing with fire.”

About this data

With a panel of over 5.5 million online shoppers, Rakuten Intelligence gives the most detailed, and accurate digital commerce data available, and is reported daily.

Rakuten Intelligence is the only service to measure digital commerce directly from the consumer, across all retailers, at the item level, and over time. Our retailer-independent methodology precisely measures commerce as it happens. By extracting detailed information from hundreds of millions of aggregated and anonymized e-receipts, Rakuten Intelligence can map the entire Purchase Graph, connecting each and every consumer to all their purchases.

Rakuten Intelligence gets its data from e-receipts – not a browser, app or software installed by the end-user – so its measurement reflects comprehensive shopping behavior across multiple devices, over time, which are key in an increasingly omnichannel retail world. Rakuten Intelligence is the exclusive e-commerce data provider for NPD’s Checkout Tracking e-commerce service.