• Lindsay Grace Kinniburgh

Don't stumble like Starbucks, be like Nike!

After Starbucks banned employees from wearing clothing and accessories supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, the global coffee chain quickly pivoted their position and looked to Nike for inspiration.



The deeply disturbing and tragic death of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 has been a major catalyst for bringing the extent of systemic racism to the surface.


Public support towards #BlackLivesMatter and the uncompromisable demand for better is generating a game-changing moment in our history.

While there are many companies and brands coming forth to vocally support the movement to combat racial injustice, the sensitivity around Black Lives Matter has also caused unsettlement in some companies.

One well-known brand that received extensive backlash after demonstrating a lack of empathy and support towards Black Lives Matter is the famous Seattle coffee company.


Starbucks by Getty images

While the urban coffee house is typically known for its progressive brand image, Starbucks’ decision to ban employees from wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts and accessories at work received well-publicised criticism; especially after the brand vowed on Twitter to, "stand in solidarity with our Black partners, customers and communities.”

The controversy around the decision was further fuelled by the fact that Starbucks actively supports LGBTQ rights and marriage equality, and is known to hand out accessories to their staff - this disparity left staff and customers questioning, why was Black Lives Matter not part of Starbuck's brand purpose?

While millions of people across the globe pushed aside the risk of COVID-19 to come together to protest for equality, it's no surprise a #BoycottStarbucks hashtag began to gather momentum.

The damaging repercussion from the insensitive move no doubt left a bitter taste for some coffee lovers.



In a 180-degree shift to reverse its stance and salvage its brand reputation, Starbucks formally announced that alongside allowing employees to wear their own Black Lives Matter clothing or attire, they would release 250,000 t-shirts featuring their own Black Lives Matter design.

While Starbucks is attempting to make amends for their handling of Black Lives Matter, brands such as Nike remain in front when it comes to expressing solidarity towards the movement.


Shortly after the death of George Floyd, Nike launched a campaign that altered their well-known tagline from "Just Do It" to, "For Once, Don’t Do It".

The video released by Nike continues:


Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America.

Don’t turn your back on racism.


Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us.


Don’t make any more excuses.

Don’t think this doesn’t affect you.


Don’t sit back and be silent.

Don’t think you can’t be part of the change.


Let’s all be part of the change.

The ad was so impactful that in a show of solidarity and support, the campaign was even shared by Nike's major rival, Adidas.


In addition to its thought-provoking ‘For Once, Don’t Do It’ campaign, the leading sports brand will continue to encourage people to work for equality and to uplift and bring people together with their #UntilWeallWin series.

Nike's commitment to the black community has become part of Nike's brand purpose promise, which includes a $40 million commitment to support the Black community in the U.S. on behalf of the NIKE, Jordan and Converse brands collectively.

The brand purpose commitment, which was announced on 5 June 2020, will focus on investing in and supporting organizations that put social justice, education and addressing racial inequality in America at the centre of their work.

A statement from John Donahoe, President and CEO of NIKE, Inc. vocalised the brand’s deep and ongoing commitment to Black Lives Matter.

“Systemic racism and the events that have unfolded across America over the past few weeks serve as an urgent reminder of the continued change needed in our society. We know Black Lives Matter. We must educate ourselves more deeply on the issues faced by Black communities and understand the enormous suffering and senseless tragedy racial bigotry creates.

The NIKE, Inc. family can always do more but will never stop striving to role model how a diverse company acts. We will continue our focus on being more representative of our consumers while doing our part in the communities we serve.”

In a report by CBS News, John Donahoe also acknowledged that Nike must continue to do more to "get our own house in order".


Nike’s brand purpose is driven by a commitment to transparency, accountability and impact. The brand also pledges to share their progress through the Nike Impact Report.

While we are moving towards a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted, we as a global community, still have a long way to go.

If you're looking for ways to support #BlackLivesMatter, view our 12 ways to support Black Lives Matter through Brand Purpose blog >



Does your business have a brand purpose promise?


A powerful brand purpose can change the dynamic of your business. Following your north-star can help you connect with consumers on a deeper level, all while making a positive impact in the world.



For help driving your brand purpose and purpose-driven marketing strategies, talk to us at Outsourced imagination.


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Thanks for stopping by!


Article by Lindsay Grace Kinniburgh

Founder & CMO at Outsourced imagination



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