Nike just did it. / by Greg Monaco

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Great brands celebrate an ideal. For decades, Nike has understood this to be true.

And Nike has just set a new standard by putting Colin Kaepernick front and center on their “Just do it.” campaign. This is not routine brand-building. If Nike was looking to further reinforce their universal adoration, stepping into a national, emotionally-charged debate—and taking a side—is not the way.

But they knew that going in.

Nike understands and embraces the idea that brands don’t need to be loved by every single person alive to thrive. The moment Nike published the work, they knew it would push some customers away, just as it would bring others closer. Some are setting their basketball shoes on fire, others are pledging allegiance.

There is no difference between what great brands say and what they do. And Nike is living the same line that’s written across Mr. Kaepernick’s face.