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Colin Kaepernick Social Media Strategy Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 22nd, 2021

Colin Kaepernick is an NFL football player best known for his public protest of kneeling during national anthem performances as a manner of attracting attention to the oppression of racial minorities in the United States. He gained immediate public and media attention, which also deeply divided the country and a passionate fan base of the NFL, some supporting his actions while others demonstrated anger at what they saw as a disrespectful action towards American symbols and pride.

Kaepernick became a symbol himself and one of the most influential sports personalities in the current socio-political landscape. Kaepernick surprisingly maintains a subdued public profile, mostly avoiding interviews and public appearances with an occasional staged and savvy use of social media to make his point but he is able to connect and get the message across to a large group of loyal supporters that he has garnered through his actions.

The ability of Kaepernick to remain publicly relevant and a central topic in both the NFL protests that he started and the overall conversation of racial injustice stems from strategic use of social media where he has collected millions of followers across various platforms. Kaepernick made a promise of silence in 2017 to counter-protest the twisted opposition and messaging that President Trump has distorted his actions into, refusing to be interviewed and that in turn gave him more power and attention. Kaepernick uses this principle in social media as well, where the majority of his posts since the 2017 pledge have been reposted, and only on rare occasions, he writes in his own words.

Political figures, celebrities, activists, and other athletes that Kaepernick follows on social media commonly support him and his message. By reposting and retweeting these individuals, he constructs a narrative of his movement in support of peaceful protesting, relevant news, and highlighting racial injustice (Hoffman & Minsberg, 2018). By doing this, when Kaepernick does speak or post something, it is amplified significantly, commonly becoming a trending post or media story.

Kaepernick has become a symbol of the modern Civil Rights movement, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and other activist initiatives and organizations. He is respected and admired because he has not caved to public pressure. As analyzed by a communication studies expert, “Kaep has been unapologetic about his views and his activism throughout the last year, which is visible to anyone monitoring his Twitter account or where he is going and what he is doing” (Reid, 2017).

In the midst of the digital age, Kaepernick’s actions and views are posted and discussed online, and it is through the use of online petitions and videos posted on social media that millions of fans support him through the years as he has been effectively sidelined by the NFL. An online protest is inherently a modern form of peaceful political activism, and Kaepernick has made sure to capitalize on this formula to get his message across as well as unite his fan base, the African American community, and those who support the cause.

Another way that Kaepernick maintains his profile and sends a message to his fans is through his official sponsors. In 2018, the global sports brand Nike made Kaepernick the face of an advertisement campaign. Along with other individuals and athletes that define the status quo, Kaepernick is portrayed as a hero but relatable, speaking the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Kaepernick quietly posted the advertisement on his social media along with Nike and it quickly became a hit, revitalizing his personal brand and recognition along with famously propping up Nike sales.

Recently, Nike released a new athletic shoe with an imprint of Kaepernick’s face and the numbers 08, 14, and 16 to represent the date when Kaepernick first refused to stand for the national anthem. This partnership sparked significant debate on social media with many criticizing the Nike brand, while others praising it along with Kaepernick highlighting that both built their brands and messaging on the concept of rebellion and being different (Everett, 2018). This messaging and online controversy is part of Kaepernick’s approach to interaction with his fan base and immediately after the release of the advertisement and product, those who were interested in Kaepernick and his message were aware and involved in the debate.

While deeply involved in his own legal battles with the NFL or somewhat personal attacks on him by Trump and his supporters, Kaepernick uses his social media platform to support his activism. He does not engage in back and fourth twitter arguments, nor does he provide a platform for those he does not believe in him. That stoic and strong approach has made his social media presence stand out among the “firestorm” of controversial debate that he represents.

This strategy of a few words has significant impact and has also been a reflection on others, such as when Tom Brady liked an Instagram post of Kaepernick’s activism, it was seen as a wordless gesture of support for his fellow athlete and his message, thus attracting even greater public attention. This allows Kaepernick to build a strong social media presence and developing messaging that resonates with his fan base.


Everett, S. (2018). . Forbes. Web.

Hoffman, B., & Minsberg, T. (2018). The deafening silence of Colin Kaepernick. The New York Times. Web.

Reid, J. (2017). . The Undefeated. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Colin Kaepernick Social Media Strategy." July 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/colin-kaepernick-social-media-strategy/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Colin Kaepernick Social Media Strategy'. 22 July.

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