Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick is one of the first NFL players to kneel during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality. In this picture, a Nike Ad featuring quarterback Kaepernick is on display in New York City, Sept. 8, 2018. ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

Nike and Colin Kaepernick have been making waves in the last 24 days after the American sports apparel and equipment manufacturer released the latest ad campaign featuring the controversial former NFL quarterback.

The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback is a figure that divides opinion after he became one of the first players in the NFL to kneel during the national anthem in order to protest racial injustice and police brutality. His actions resonated with a number of other NFL players, who also began taking the knee, which was criticized by a number of NFL fans and also President Donald Trump.

Kaepernick cut ties with the 49ers in 2017 to become a free agent, but he went unpicked and is currently unemployed. Despite that, he became the face of Nike’s new campaign, which has caused a stir since its Sept. 3 release.

The ad campaign came under heavy criticism in the initial stages with a number of consumers taking to social media to destroy products with the "swoosh", but it soon took a positive turn and it is now safe to say that it was a resounding success. Nike’s market value has gone up by $6 billion, while their sales have also skyrocketed in recent weeks.

However, it could all have been moot, had a few executives at Nike got their way. According to the New York Times, the Beaverton, Oregon-based company came close to cutting ties with the unemployed former NFL star before making a U-turn and embracing what he stood for.

Nike’s main concern about supporting Kaepernick was the potential damage it could cause to their relationship with the NFL, with whom they have strong ties since 2012. They were committed to a $220 million annual contract with the NFL that allows them to put the "swoosh" on all the merchandise, and that deal was restructured and extended for another 10-years in March this year.

The former 49ers quarterback has been on the Nike roster since 2011, but his latest falling out with the NFL and the decision by teams not to select him put the sports brand's bosses on alert. It was decided by the company’s sports marketing group that it was time to end the contract with Kaepernick as they were not able to use his name on any of their products.

But Nigel Powell, the longtime head of communications at Nike intervened after learning of their decision and persuaded the company not to cut ties with Kaepernick as he felt it will be seen as the company was siding with the NFL.

The communications head got his way and the former NFL star was retained by Nike, with his current contract set to expire in early 2019. Kaepernick’s representatives had already begun talks over a potential extension before the latest campaign.

The New York Times report claims it was Nike’s ad agency for more than three decades Wieden & Kennedy that urged the company to make Kaepernick the face of their 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign. And Nike CEO Mark Parker recently revealed they felt “very good and proud” of the ad campaign.

"How we look at it is how do we connect and engage in a way that's relevant and inspiring to the consumers that we're here to serve," Parker told Wall Street analysts Tuesday. "Our brand strength ... is a key dimension that contributes to the ongoing momentum that we're building across the Nike portfolio."

“We feel actually very good and are very proud of the work we’ve been doing,” the Nike CEO added. “We know it’s resonated actually quite strongly with consumers.”