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Brands Break Ties With Clippers: The Social Benefit of Corporate Responsibility

Yesterday, the NBA ruled to ban Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life after a slew of racist comments surfaced that you’ve no doubt heard about by now.

While the NBA took swift action, many brands were even quicker to pull their support from the franchise. State Farm, Redbull, Kia, and several other brands withdrew sponsorship from the Clippers, but were careful to note that they were still 100% behind the players, team, and community.

Situations like this can be a nightmare for brands. If you’re too emotional or quick to act, the monetary repercussions can be long-lasting. If you wait too long, you’re seen as a villain.

But if you act responsibly and keep your corporate values, customers, and the greater good in mind, the brand-building potential, and ability to connect on a deeper level with your customers and fans is pretty remarkable. Take these three brands who pulled support from the Clippers in protest of Donald Sterling, but handled their social aspects in very different ways:

State Farm

State Farm released their statement directly on Twitter:

The quick and decisive action drove a lot of chatter on the social network, giving State Farm a massive spike in engagement. Screenshot 2014-04-30 09.14.30

Not only that, but the majority of this engagement was positive, focused on State Farm’s response, as opposed to the issue itself:

Screenshot 2014-04-30 08.28.29

Kia Motors

Kia didn’t publicly announce their suspended campaigns, but they didn’t shy away from it either, making sure to announce their continued support of Clippers star Blake Griffin, who they also sponsor separately from the Clippers organization, and for the sport, since Kia is the official vehicle of the NBA.

In fact, on the day of the announcement, Kia Tweeted 119 times — well over their daily average.

Screenshot 2014-04-30 10.27.13

A good gauge of success when dealing with a PR crisis is whether your audience sticks around or not. In Kia’s case, their audience grew at a higher rate than normal, suggesting that they handled it in a way that their fans appreciated.

Screenshot 2014-04-30 10.20.41

Red Bull

Redbull took a different tact, pausing their ad support for the Clippers, but keeping quiet about it on social media. This makes sense for Red Bull’s brand, which skews heavily toward the action sport set. Focusing on an issue within the basketball community may alienate their incredibly active fan base.

In fact, Red Bull decreased their Tweet frequency on the day they suspended their partnership with the Clippers.

Screenshot 2014-04-30 10.57.25

While each brand took a different approach, they were each calculated in their response to the crisis, and each saw a favorable impact as a result. As a social media marketer, it’s important to know what your PR strategy is when handling a crisis, and how corporate responsibility plays into your brand’s decision-making.

When you find yourself in a crisis, pay close attention. Measure, analyze, and report on the social impact of your decisions. Your entire organization needs your insight. To learn more about how Simply Measured can help you gain this type of insight, click the button below.

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Kevin Shively

I lead marketing for Simply Measured. Recovering journalist. My team is embarrassed of my hilarious jokes. Firm believer that the best marketers are the best storytellers and the best storytellers use the best data.

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