How Nike Used Emotional Appeal to Grab Everyone’s Attention

Christopher DeMaio
3 min readJan 31, 2021


During the Summer of 2020, the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter Movement were the only two things people could talk about. If you don’t know the names George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, I suggest you stop reading this and do some research.

Companies, celebrities, influencers, and even the Average Joe were making public statements and incorporating a black square into their Instagram aesthetic to show their support for this powerful movement. Brands across the world have released statements over the past few months supporting the movement, donating money and pledging to make changes to how they operate both internally and externally.

The Black Lives Matter Movement is something that I will never forget. In the middle of a global pandemic, millions of people took to the streets to take a stand against racism and police brutality towards the Black Americans in this country. It was truly a remarkable sight.

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Let’s talk about the Nike ad.

The Nike advertisement that I shared above is something that has stuck out to me since I first saw it in May 2020. The advertisement has no color, no images, no actors, no voices; just text on a screen in black and white. But the message is powerful and tells a story in itself. Nike used an emotional appeal technique to convey its message to their customers and viewers. It is attention-grabbing, and tries to elicit an emotional response that will cause the viewer to take some type of action.

The ad starts with the text, “For once, Don’t Do It”, which is a play on Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It.” At first, the viewer might not be sure what this advertisement is asking them not to do. It sets the tone that something is wrong, and that something needs to change. We’re still not sure what the conflict is. There is no setting and no characters. Yet.

That text disappears, and the next message reads, “Don’t pretend… there’s not a problem in America.” Boom, we have setting. America. Nike isn’t referring to one specific city or state, but the country as a whole. This ad is addressing a national problem. But what is the problem?

“Don’t turn… your back on racism.” are the next set of words on the screen. “Don’t accept… innocent lives being taken from us.” We’re now aware what this message is about, what the conflict is, and who the characters are. This is a Black Lives Matter commercial put out by Nike to let their customers know where they stand on this national issue. And they want you to do something about it.

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

“Let’s all… be part of the change.”

This commercial had such a huge impact on me. It was one of the first advertisements that I saw during this movement. I thought it was a brave, bold and powerful message from such a prestigious brand. Many other companies and brands followed in their footsteps. My first thoughts were, “If this company is encouraging me to be part of the change, I’m going to listen.”

What I love most about this ad is that the emotion, the message and the story were all portrayed in this advertisement. It didn’t require brutal images or videos; all it took was 59 words, in black and white.

I educated myself, and I took a stand. I took to my Instagram account where I shared resources for information, petitions, and donations to my 4,000 followers. I donated to multiple charities, bought merchandise, drew digital art, and yes, posted a black square to my feed.



Christopher DeMaio

Social Media Graduate Student at the University of Florida.