Cultural Capital: Nike’s Hijab Ad and That Pepsi Ad.

It did happen. It was real. We’ve seen it, heard about it, read about it, be it via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram on all main social media outlets, on notifications to our phones, on articles, in trending notifications, you name it. If you’re on the Web 2.0 [1], you can’t escape it. If you haven’t seen it you can watch it here:

The results are:

Capitalist + Neoliberalist + Corporate Propaganda Pepsi Ad: 0

#BlackTwitter, POC, QTIPOC and all people with cognitive function and political awareness of their surroundings and what’s actually going on in the world currently: 1  

This Pepsi ad, that was released last week has now officially been pulled off the web and will not be shared on any other media outlets.

In light of this a couple of thoughts resurfaced, thoughts that had been on my mind these past few months. During post-dissertation writings on Agency, and on the co-opting of black cultural content URL [2], brought me to think more about co-opting. Co-opting of not just aesthetics, appropriation of hairstyles, of language, of dance moves, but also of activist language and of protest. This is nothing new; just that within this time-frame of our navigation on the Web 2.0 this ‘co-opting’ has a new face. It’s louder. It’s bolder…It’s in the form of a Pepsi ad.

Black cultural content creators create Cultural Capital [3], which equates to money. Money is profit, but where does this profit go? Certainly not into our pockets, nor into that of the creators of original content: i.e. ‘Eyebrows on Fleek’ by black cultural content creator, Peaches Monroee on Vine. The profit goes to all the big URL corporate giants that circulate black CC content.


The soon to be launched in 2018 Nike Hijab range received many mixed emotions and views. At the time, the ones I saw most on my timeline when it was announced were positive reactions, it seemed to have been well received and welcomed. There didn’t seem to be much of a backlash or critique; even within conversations I was having about Nike’s ads with FKA Twigs, alongside the Hijab range launch, I would bring up concerns but wouldn’t really be understood. This led to me feeling that maybe I was being too critical, and it made me doubt myself. But, I just couldn’t shake this niggling feeling that something wasn’t right: I wasn’t buying that Nike genuinely cared about Muslim people. In my opinion, it was another tactic to sell. That’s what Nike is, a business. A corporate business that sells sportswear to consumers. Just that in this instance, they will attract even more consumers.

I also found it curious that it was released when it was, considering the range isn’t even going to be available till next year. It was revealed at the same time as there were hijab bans being put in place in Western countries. It’s still a very current hot topic of discussion and very urgent for many Muslim people around the world, Muslim people that are being discriminated against, pushed down subway stairs, humiliated, harassed, the list goes on. And then..BAM! Nike revealed their new Pro-Hijab range on International Women’s Day! Great marketing tactic! Pepsi seems to have taken some notes.

I couldn’t help but question if Nike were genuine, or if it was just a moment of opportunity for a big corporation to capitalise on a pressing current socio-political issue that included many activists, think pieces, marches by jumping on that trending wave, disguised as a Pro-hijab moment to show solidarity, acceptance and representation of the hijab.

But isn’t representation, visibility and ‘diversity’ within these spaces what many are fighting for? Through the doubts, I looked past the surface layers of representation, of visibility, of acceptance for answers.

I read an article by The Brown Hijabi ( where she wrote on the hijab becoming a market niche, in this article her comments, perfectly articulate why I found the Nike ad problematic:

‘We must not equate becoming market niche with becoming free. {..} Of course it feels nice to see a woman wearing a hijab on a mainstream billboard. {..} My liberation as a visibly Muslim woman does not reside in becoming market-niche. Becoming recognised as a consumer will not stop Islamophobia, it will not dismantle the surveillance structures set up to police Muslim people, it won’t prevent detentions and deportations, the increasing criminalisation of Muslim women’s existences and the fact we’re the central discursive symbol in the debate about culture and identities. Neoliberalism is not our liberation.’’


Which leads me now onto the link I’m making between: Nike’s Hijab ad and the Pepsi’s answer to world peace ad: Kendall Jenner and a Pepsi can, in relation to Cultural Capital and the co-opting of activist methodologies, language, movements, etc as a way to co-opt a revolution and bottle it to sell as profit. It is explained in more depth by Sensei Aishitemasu in her Youtube post in response to the Pepsi ad(

This made me think about ‘Agency’ within social justice, activism and our protest methods being co-opted because of our need to be (within many methods of protest) hypervisible, and the Pepsi ad to me, is the perfect example of the consequences of these risks of hypervisibility.

The beauty of all of this to me, is how Cultural Capital works in this day and age, in 2017. It’s a lot different to pre-Web 2.0. Cultural Capital is the most important thing for Branding. Many big corporate brands need to be ‘cool’, they need to have the instagram celebs endorse their product, pop culture needs to make their product ‘cool’. This might depend on their target audience, but generally, and in Nike’s case, their audience is the world. Or to be more specific, anyone and everyone that can afford to buy a Nike product.

The day Pepsi dropped that ad they lost Cultural Capital. They lost popularity, they lost consumers, they are no longer ‘cool’. The internet and navigators of the URL will never forget it, this moment has now been dragged through twitter timelines, shapeshifted, transformed into so many memes and circulated URL that we will never be able to keep up or keep count, like an infinite timeline thread. Jobs will be lost. The ad was cancelled and pulled down. Gone are the days of ‘Any Publicity is good Publicity’, I honestly don’t think this applies anymore. Yes, they had Pepsi trending, but was it for the right reasons? Will I, or will you go and physically buy a Pepsi tomorrow? No. (And I hope you don’t either).

This is all because we do have the power to bring corporations to heel; to hold them accountable. With enough negative attention we have been able to get the ad pulled off the internet and cancelled, proving here that memes are valid forms of social commentary and the power of Black URL spaces such as #Blacktwitter are getting even stronger.

We are all consuming in a different way. But we all, including myself, still need to consume a lot smarter.  

Words by Tiff Webster.


[1] Web 2.0: The second stage of development of the Internet, characterized especially by the change from static web pages to dynamic or user-generated content and the growth of social media. (Oxford Dictionary) (see Web 2.0 in endnotes p: 29)

[2] URL: Universal Resource Link, meaning a website or path on the internet.

[3] Cultural Capital: Forms of knowledge; skill; education; any advantages a person has which give them a higher status in society, including high expectations. Cultural capital can exist in three forms: in the embodied state, i.e., in the form of long-lasting dispositions of the mind and body; in the objectified state, in the form of cultural goods (pictures, books, dictionaries, instruments, machines, etc.), which are the trace or realization of theories or critiques of these theories, problematics, etc.; and in the institutionalized state, a form of objectification which must be set apart because, as will be seen in the case of educational qualifications, it confers entirely original properties on the cultural capital which it is presumed to guarantee. (Bourdieu, P. 1986)



On Cultural Capital and the Pepsi ad by Sensei Aishitemasu

Twitter Thread:

So, About That Pepsi Ad...

So, About That Pepsi Ad Pt. 2...

Becoming Market Niche isn’t the same as Becoming Free

EU workplace headscarf ban ‘can be legal’, says ECJ.



‘Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner Ad Was So Awful It Did the Impossible: It United the Internet:’

‘‘Clearly we missed the mark’: Pepsi pulls Kendall Jenner ad and apologizes:’