The surprising success of the Nike and Gillette ads, in six charts

January 31, 2019

Written by Brett Lofgren

Gillette received a lot of press for their ‘Best a Man Can Be?’ campaign. We looked at the data to see if the campaign should be seen as a success for the brand.

Gillette released its now-infamous #metoo ad, and it was a wild two weeks or so of controversy in the aftermath. Last week though, P&G declared the campaign a success. There was backlash by some who thought Gillette was ostracizing its core customer, followed by backlash against the backlash, and countless think pieces along the way about what all the backlash really meant.

In a call with reporters last Monday, P&G CFO Jon Moeller said that sales were “in-line with pre-campaign levels,” and that the ad had “unprecedented levels” of media coverage and customer engagement,” helping the company “connect more meaningfully” with younger consumer groups.

That checks out with our own numbers, which show a massive spike in engagement about Gillette in January around the campaign.

The big question though: Is P&G right? Was their “Best a Man Can Be?” ad, which challenged men to confront a culture of toxic masculinity, a success? Or are they just trying to spin a turbulent situation?
Let’s look at the data.

Just Do It: Will Gillette Replicate Nike’s Success?

The best case scenario for Gillette is Nike’s Kaepernick campaign. The sports apparel giant received serious backlash, especially online, for its embrace of Colin Kaepernick in its “Dream Crazy” campaign; #boycottNike trended on Twitter, and shares fell on Wall Street, at least initially, sparked by fears that the company had alienated customers who opposed Kaepernick protesting racial injustice by taking a knee during the National Anthem at NFL games.

But shortly after, the ad started generating tons of positive reporting. It received $43 million worth of media exposure. Sales jumped 27 percent. The upshot was, Nike knew their audience and nearly two-thirds of its customers are under 35 years old and far more racially diverse than the baby boomer population; what seemed like a risky strategy from the outside was actually a pretty safe bet.

Growth in Nike’s online sales vs. previous year

Looking at the social engagement as the campaign unfolded on NewsWhip, it was clear that Wall Street’s panic was unfounded. A good deal of the negative backlash was coming from ultra-right-wing sites like and, stories that Nike likely cared little about, particularly since the story about Michael Jordan resigning from Nike’s board was actually completely false, and fact-checked by Snopes as being so.

The data for Gillette is rosier. The top stories from ScaryMommy (a millennial parenting site with an audience Gillette wants to reach) and (a millennial-focused, Upworthy-esque site) received over 1.25 million engagements on extremely positive stories in the first week alone.

It received backlash from the partisan outlets—Breitbart, the Daily Wire—but the engagement there pales in comparison. Overall, of the top 100 most-engaged stories about Gillette’s ad that came out in the first week, 37 were positive, 41 were neutral, and only 22 took a negative tone.

And on Facebook, positive engagement (shares, likes, loves) have far outpaced negative ones, with a ratio of ‘Loves’ to ‘Angries’ on the native video of the ad posted to Gillette’s Facebook Page of just over 9:1.

The only real blemish from Gillette came from YouTube, where there were nearly half a million more dislikes than likes, as of January 24th. But this can be partially explained by the fact that a men’s right’s community on Reddit set out to make it the most disliked video on YouTube.

Gillette may not see the same kind of sales explosion as Nike did, but there’s every reason to be optimistic—especially when you factor in the tens of millions of dollars in media exposure the campaign has generated, and the largely positive sentiment around it.

It also constitutes an important shift for Gillette. P&G’s grooming sales fell 3% last year, facing increased pressure from millennial-focused brands like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club. They’re not just selling razors to dad and grandpa, and clearly, they had the data to support this strategy would shift perception among the younger consumers they were targeting.

And despite what you might have read, our data shows that the internet agrees.

Want to see what you’re missing on the internet in real time? Check out NewsWhip Spike.

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