Brand alignment is a topic that big companies take seriously when it comes to their association with celebrity endorsements. Many smaller organisations also align themselves with sporting and media personalities to assist with increasing their exposure to new audiences. As you grow into a big organisation this form of marketing and alignment may be an effective strategy.
I’m sure you remember the mass exit of endorsement deals in relation to Tiger Woods when his extramarital activities were exposed. Most sponsors withdrew their associations with the tainted image of Woods, and it has taken years for him to claim back some of his positive personal brand. With good advice, he controlled the damage to his future brand by laying low, publicly apologising, and eventually climbing his way back to number one again in the golfing world. His brand will continue to be slightly damaged for many years to come, though it may die down enough for more endorsement deals to come back as time allows him to heal wounds in the public eye. Not all people can stay angry all of the time. Nike stuck by him, but they have had their fair share of bad publicity in the past, so maybe they just knew how to ride it out better than most.
YOU CAN’T FOOL ALL THE PEOPLE, NOT EVEN MOST OF THE TIME. AND PEOPLE, ONCE UNFOOLED, TALK ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE.
SETH GODIN, AUTHOR, MARKETER, ENTREPRENEUR AND PUBLIC SPEAKER
In the 80s Madonna became a celebrity endorsement for Pepsi with a $5 million year-long deal. She then went on to release her video clip ‘Like a Prayer’ in a commercial format for Pepsi and her own MTV version, which was controversial at the time. The video includes Madonna making out with an African-American man on a church pew, experiencing stigmata and witnessing a murder. At the time all of these themes were considered controversial. Pepsi withdrew their endorsement due to international pressure from religious groups but did not ask for the money to be returned, interestingly enough.
Adi (Adolf) Dassler, who founded Adidas footwear (Dassler Brother’s Shoe Factory initially), took advantage of an alignment by sponsoring African-American Olympic athlete Jesse Owens, who was preparing to compete at the Berlin Olympics of 1936. This was when Adolf Hitler was in power in the host country Germany. The sponsorship brought a lot of attention to the Dassler Brother’s company when Jesse went on to win four gold medals, the most won by any athlete at those games. The brand (later named Adidas in 1949) was catapulted from there. Adi did have some ongoing differences with his brother, Rudolf Dassler, who went on to create the rival company Puma. Rumour has it that these differences came from their political views. While both brothers had joined the Nazi party in the early stages, it was said that Adi withdrew in later years. Adidas did have to contribute to the war effort by constructing military boots for the Nazi party, but his brother enlisted and was reputed to be a more passionate National Socialist.
How far would you go in making your brand stand for something that you believe in? Adi knew that sponsoring an elite athlete would benefit their brand, but with the political situation of Hitler’s Aryan Nation agenda and not sponsoring a German athlete – and sponsoring an African-American athlete for that matter – was a very bold move. Adi saw it as a love of sportsmen and aligning to the best with the best product available. He had a true purpose and stuck to it the best way he knew how.
THE WORST THING IN YOUR OWN DEVELOPMENT AS A LEADER IS NOT TO DO IT WRONG. IT’S TO DO IT FOR THE WRONG REASONS.
STAN SLAP, BUSINESS AUTHOR
So what will your business align itself to publicly? It’s not just about marketing and celebrity associations. What about business partnerships or supply chain alignment? A lot of companies are starting to align themselves to environmental and humanitarian causes through their supply chains or general support. Take Gloria Jeans and McCafés link to Rainforest Alliance Coffee for their stores or Starbucks with Fairtrade coffee in their stores. These are associations that they want to have tied to their brands, being mindful of their supply chain and the impact it can make on their brand. These are positive associations that can help improve their brand image. Aligning with charitable associations can be good PR if done well and it actually means something to your industry. A business selling sunglasses or glasses and having a day each year where a certain amount of sales or profit goes to a sight restoration charity would be a perfect alignment. It adds to the brand story and shows that you are more than just a place to make money. You are passionate about what you sell and care about everyone’s sight, not just that of your customers.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO WORK ON YOUR BRAND ALIGNMENT?
• Once you understand your core brand values, check that your supply chain aligns to these values.
• What charities align to your services? Can you establish a formal arrangement that can be marketed to your customers? Remember, you are helping the charity’s publicity too by marketing your involvement.
• Do the relationships with your customers align to your values? Do you knowingly sell goods or services to companies or groups with bad reputations? Paying attention to these details can be helpful. You know the old saying, ‘Don’t sell your soul to the devil’. We are all here to make money, but sometimes you need to question how far you will go.
This post is an extract from the book ‘Expandable Brands, A guide to growing business locations while protecting your brand’ by Clare Balmer.
You can visit the SHOP for your copy today.
Your brand should always be as authentic inside as it is outside. Here is a great video on employee brand alignment.