Time For Brands To Take A Stand

They found a way to work around the virus. They ditched the fans, socially distanced, bubbled up at Disney World. They found a way to come back together to do what they love to do and what they’re paid to do.

Coronavirus didn’t stop them. But grief did. Anger did. Injustice did.

Basketball. Baseball. Hockey. Tennis. Even commentary. This week, hundreds of sports professionals walked out on the job to protest police brutality and systemic racism.

One person taking a knee gets blackballed. Hundreds of people walking out get attention.

And now, everyone is wondering what happens next. Is it just a game or two? Will they be back next week, after it all blows over? How seriously do we have to take this?

My take: There’s no way it blows over.

This isn’t a new bonfire. It’s the same one that roared during the George Floyd protests. Jacob Blake added fresh fuel and oxygen.



So the question becomes, what does it have to do with you?

Or perhaps a better question for readers of this column: Where does your brand stand on this issue?

According to a survey released this week, 69% of consumers want brands to reference current events in their advertising. Seventy-two percent say they plan to be “more thoughtful about” the brands they support after the pandemic.

With the economy facing a record contraction, the fight for every dollar is going to be more vicious than ever.

So what’s your plan?

The first question: Does your brand want to stand up in solidarity with the protests?

If yes, start by taking a good look at yourself as a brand.

Do you have the moral authority to say anything on this topic? Have you earned the right to have your voice heard?

If you have, great; you don’t need me. If you haven’t, start with yourself. Do the work.

As I wrote back in June

“How many black people do you have in your company? On your leadership team? In the C-suite? Have you ever had a black CEO?

“Are black people paid the same as white people in the same role? Are the black people in your company disproportionately concentrated in lower-paying roles?

“Do your hiring practices have explicit mechanisms in place to overcome racial bias? Do you help your employees understand the systemic nature of racism and the insidious nature of unconscious bias?

“Do you feel threatened by any of the above? Tempted to tell me why you shouldn’t have to think about or do any of those things?

Do the work.”

Perhaps your brand doesn’t want to stand in solidarity with the protests.

In that case, a better question would be: Do you?

And if the answer to that is yes, then you have to ask yourself -- just as the athletes have -- what price you’re willing to pay.

Work out what you stand for, and then stand for it. As the NBCU study shows, your customers are going to want to know.

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