Kaepernick ad gives millions in publicity for Nike

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the new poster boy for Nike.

Kaepernick has been out of the league for two years, but is part of the 30th anniversary of Nike's 'Just Do It' campaign.

It's the first goal of advertising; get the customer's attention.

"This is not something that's new to Nike," University of Alabama marketing professor Robert Morgan explained.

This week, one of the world's biggest brands picked one of the most controversial athletes to be the face of the new 'Just Do It' campaign.

"They've estimated in the last 24 hours that Nike has had the benefit of $43 million in free media publicity from this," Morgan said.

Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49er, took a knee during the national anthem two years ago, protesting what he says is racial injustice around the country. Robert Morgan, who teaches marketing at Alabama, says the ad was more than just a chance to stir the pot. He says controversy works in advertising.

"A lot of observers position Nike as a revolutionary," Morgan said.

Kaepernick has walked away from football and it doesn't appear he's any closer to signing with a team again. But supporters say he'll make millions from the new Nike deal and he doesn't need a football to reach a mass audience.

"He can continue to make money, feed his family, continue to make a change," Bryant Stone from Huntsville said. "And I think we need to have a change across the US. As long as he's doing that in a positive light."

It certainly has people talking. Many are posting on social media they're taking their business elsewhere.

"I'm guessing they're waiting to see how strong that identity goes with Colin Kaepernick," Morgan said.

"I commend Nike for doing that. They could've turned a dead eye to it," Stone said.

"Not long after the ad was released, an NFL spokesperson said, "the social justice issues Colin and other athletes raised deserve our attention and action."

Nike hasn't yet announced if it'll launch a signature line of Kaepernick shoes and apparel.

Meanwhile, he's also suing the NFL, claiming team owners conspired to keep him out of the league after 2016. That case is moving forward to trial.