Nike may be the most valuable fashion brand in the world, but its corporate reputation has taken a hit in the past year, according to a new report.
The Axios Harris Poll surveys more than 18,000 Americans to rank the 100 most visible companies in the country on metrics like character, vision and ethics, and in 2019, Nike fell to 35th place, slipping from last year’s No. 12 spot. (Only Facebook, Tesla and McDonald’s saw more dramatic slides.)
Adidas didn’t appear on the 2018 list, but this year ranked 27th as the German sportswear giant continues to make headway in the U.S. market. While it has a sometimes controversial partner in Kanye West, the Yeezy franchise has been a major success for the company, with sales up more than 500 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Nike still scored higher than its chief rival in the “products/service” category, but it took a hit in “citizenship” and “character,” which could reflect the polarization around its campaign with Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback whose decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality has made him a divisive figure among Americans. (Though, as many analysts have pointed out, those who disagree with Kaepernick’s stance tend not to be Nike’s core customers, an idea borne out by the company’s impressive sales momentum.)
Nike has also been embroiled in a nearly yearlong scandal stemming from an April 2018 exposé by The New York Times detailing a “boys’ club” culture that included alleged widespread sexual harassment. The Beaverton, Ore.-based company admitted later that month that it had failed to properly promote women and people of color, and in July said that it would raise salaries for 10 percent of its workforce to help correct pay inequity.
Still, several lawsuits are ongoing: one filed by two former employees who claim the company fostered a hostile work environment and “intentionally and willfully” discriminated against women with regard to pay and promotions, and another filed by several investors who allege that the company’s executives failed to adequately investigate and address these issues when they were brought to light internally.
While neither sportswear company cracked the top ten, a few retail brands made the cut: Amazon came in second place (after grocery chain Wegmans), followed by Patagonia (#3) and L.L.Bean (#4). Under Armour also made its first appearance on the list, coming in at No. 44.