Did Nike “Just Do It” for Consumers? Reactions to Nike’s Plus Size Mannequins

Nike are no stranger to controversy, in fact, they court it. Having received relatively few column inches since they employed Colin Kaepernick as the star of their 30th anniversary advert (shortly after he opted out of the NFL following backlash for taking a knee to protest about racial injustices in the USA), they were back in the press again this week with the introduction of plus size mannequins in their London store.

Journalists, public figures and consumers have taken to news sites and social media to air a range of views on the mannequin. And opinions fall on a spectrum from celebration of Nike’s inclusive policy through to offence that Nike would dare to “promote” obesity.

While the press we read, see and hear varies in opinion, it’s not necessarily representative of how consumers feel. Nor are Twitter hashtags or viral social posts representative of the views of the majority. So, to help cut out the noise and get to the views of Nike’s real customers, we ran an Attest survey to 500 Nationally Representative UK consumers. Read on for how people really feel about one mannequin in a shop in London. Click here to see the results in full.

Column inches

23.8% of consumers correctly recalled that it was Nike who had introduced the plus size mannequin. The press and social media response has reached a high proportion of the public and reinforced that it’s Nike who are involved.

Only 39.8% of consumers note that they haven’t seen the story covered by the press. Of those who have seen press coverage, 34.8% feel it’s been portrayed mainly positively, 15.8% think the news has been presented neutrally, and 9.6% feel the coverage has been mainly negative.


Overwhelmingly positive reception

Tanya Gold sparked a social media storm by claiming that the mannequin sells women “a dangerous lie”, noting that the fat-acceptance movement is no friend to women. But, despite her piece, and the negative press elsewhere that openly criticises Nike for their use of the mannequin, our survey demonstrated an overwhelmingly positive reaction.

82% of respondents agreed that the mannequin represents the long-awaited and necessary representation of larger body sizes by brands. And 87.4% agreed that the mannequin represents a body type that lots of people in modern-day Britain have.


This is a sentiment reflected in many free text responses when we asked those with positive reactions to the mannequin, “Why do you think Nike were right to use this mannequin?”:


Other sentiments shared indicated that the mannequin will help encourage plus size individuals to take up sports, which shouldn’t be a monopoly of slimmer individuals:


These sentiments – along with dozens of other positive comments mentioned by consumers – indicate that consumers feel the trend shouldn’t start and end with Nike or sports apparel. 79.3% of consumers agree that other brands should introduce similar mannequins. Clearly, consumers hope this move is just the tip of the iceberg.


The minority negative response

While 79.2% of consumers agree that Nike did a good thing by introducing this mannequin to their London store, a small minority (5.4%) disagree.

We asked these respondents why they felt that Nike had made a mistake. The responses mainly centred around the sentiment that plus size mannequin would normalise plus size bodies, even encouraging obesity. Responses included:


However, even amongst the consumers who believe Nike made a mistake here, the overwhelming emotional reaction to the mannequin is one of neutrality (40%). Only 24% of the small sample who had a negative response felt angry and an even smaller 16% felt offended.

Amongst those with a positive reaction to the mannequin, the overwhelming reaction was one of happiness (52.2%), followed by pride (28.9%), inclusion (27.1%) and then neutrality (25.3%).

Impact for Nike

Will this start a chain reaction on the High Street? Or will the small but vocal negative minority scare brands into sticking with the usual mannequins for fear of public backlash or a loss of brand love?

Either way, the impact on Nike itself is likely to be positive. 44.6% of consumers say they’ll be more likely to shop with the brand as a result of this move, while only 15.6% say they’ll be less likely to use the brand.


We can’t wait to see what they’ll do next!

Brands should be encouraged to take this as just the starting point. It’s only a small but loud minority who have had a negative reaction to the news. Even amongst this group, 40% admit to feeling more neutral emotions towards the mannequin than anger or offence.

To dive even deeper into consumer reactions to this news story, or a story affecting your brand, get in touch with Attest today. Listening to the opinionated press or the loudest voices on social media means you might not hear the consumers that matter most to you. Gauging genuine consumer reactions to a story is vital in order to establish the best way for your brand to react.

To learn more about their campaigns – we’ve listed the 5 ingredients of a great Nike marketing campaign here.


Content Team 

Our in-house marketing team is always scouring the market for the next big thing. This piece has been lovingly crafted by one of our team members. Attest's platform makes gathering consumer data as simple and actionable as possible.

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