What’s The Hype is our monthly PR & marketing recap where we discuss and analyze our top three stories of the month, alongside some honorable mentions.

(It is also a video series which we post every two weeks on our social media – make sure to follow us to get more regular updates from the PR & marketing world.)

Sports in Focus

June was an eventful month when it comes to sports, athletes and brands because of the major sporting events – French Open, UEFA European Championship, and new campaigns featuring top athletes.

Let’s start with the most recent event that sparked a lot of conversation.

#1 Coca-Cola loses $4bn over one Cristiano Ronaldo’s action?

During the EURO 2020 press conference, Ronaldo put away two Coke bottles from his desk. He then picked up a water bottle and said “water” in Portuguese.  Soon after that, Coca-Cola, who is among the official sponsors of EURO 2020, saw a 1.6% market dip which translates to around $4bn.

Or did it?

Many news outlets published bombastic articles about this, but soon after, the agency who published the news retracted the story and many outlets followed.

Regardless, Ronaldo’s move triggered an increase in online mentions of him and Coca-Cola. Mediatoolkit report says that the number of post impressions went over 260 million. Since the media watches closely Ronaldo’s every move, it’s no surprise that a lot of news outlets covered the story (especially in Europe), but the conversation about the event was predominately discussed on Twitter.

As can be seen in the graph below, the reactions were quite mixed.

While some praised Ronaldo’s dedication to leading a healthy life, others pointed out the potential hypocrisy on Ronaldo’s part since he was in ads for Coca-Cola and KFC in the past.

After Ronaldo, a couple of other players and coaches did the exact same thing during their press conferences.

From a marketing & PR perspective it’s interesting to see how, nowadays, one random action from a famous individual can easily damage a brand’s reputation

Or can it?

The bigger picture

In the case of Coca-Cola, Nicholas Johnson, equity analyst at Morningstar, said it best to Bussines Insider:

“Celebrities do play a role in the positioning of brands in consumers’ minds, but the extent of this is much more limited for an iconic brand like Coca-Cola.”

The fact that Coca-Cola released only a short and neutral statement about the situation shows that this wasn’t something to be bothered with.

“Everyone is entitled to their drink preferences” as people have different “tastes and needs.”

But, the question here is what about smaller companies and how can they cope with a situation like that?

Recently, there was an incident where Demi Lovato out of nowhere came after a local frozen yogurt shop The Bigg Chills in LA on social media accusing them of being “#dietculturevultures”. Lovato said that they are enabling eating disorders and diet culture because they’re selling sugar-free and diet food. The shop tried to mitigate the situation but Lovato kept going. In the end, Lovato eventually issued an 8-minute video apology because people were not happy with how the situation was handled.

Here we had two recent and similar examples of brands getting in trouble with celebrities. Since cancel culture is “in trend” these days, these type of situations are not harmless. One wrong step and you can be in serious trouble. But, in these two cases, brands managed to go on without serious consequences. Furthermore, The Bigg Chills reportedly has seen a spike in social media followers and received many supportive messages. 

Takeaways

Does that mean that the impact of celebrities and influencers is limited after all?

Well, yes and no. Here’s why.

Celebrities and influencers have huge audiences that listen to what they’re saying, recommending, endorsing, and so on. They are in a position to reach a lot of people with a simple post on social media or a gesture (as seen with Ronaldo). But, often reach doesn’t equal uncritical influence. People are not going to blindly and uncritically accept everything celebrities say to them.

There was simply no basis for these two brands to be “cancelled” in these cases. Coca-Cola was a legitimate sponsor of EURO 2020, and that’s why the drinks were on the table at that press conference. Everyone knows water is healthier than Coca-Cola, we don’t need Ronaldo to tell us that. There was a zero chance that people would stop drinking Coca-Cola on a larger scale because of this.

In the case of The Bigg Chills, they simply sold products that were sugar-free to accommodate people who can’t eat sugar. There was no basis for attacking them.

Since “cancel culture” is often labelled as irrational and baseless attacks on social media toward people and brands, these instances are a great example of how the rational still prevails. The general public won’t rally around someone’s caprices no matter the influence that person has. Moreover, sometimes they’ll even call the celebrity out for their behaviour.

Speaking of rationale…

#2 Naomi Osaka gets support from her sponsors

At the end of the last month, Naomi Osaka announced that she’ll be withdrawing from the French Open because she wanted to focus on her mental health. This month, she announced she’ll be skipping Wimbledon, as well. Her action was applauded and encouraged by her sponsors from Nike, Mastercard, Sweetgreen, and others

As Time notes, athletes are paid a lot of money by sponsors to participate in championships so the fact that sponsors supported her decision shows that the world of sports is also going through some changes.

Michael Lynch, the former head for global sponsorship marketing at Visa said to Time that five years ago brands probably wouldn’t rally around her like that,

“…but today more and more companies are liking the honesty and the openness of the athletes.”

Takeaways

New generations of customers shifted from only focusing on products to not supporting brands that are being silent on important issues. The unrealistic “perfection narrative” is not what people want to see anymore.

Victoria’s Secret learned that the hard way. Now they’re trying to revamp their image by hiring soccer player Megan Rapinoe, among others, to be their ambassador. It is yet to be seen whether they’ll succeed or not.

This shift is largely due to the growth of social media platforms. Especially when it comes to mental health topics. Nowadays, the topic is largely de-stigmatized and we can see changes in people handling mental health issues.

It’s great to see that big brands are catching up on that as well, because, as Lynch previously said, this wouldn’t happen just a couple of years ago. 

#3 Chipotle partners with top American athletes for “Team Chipotle” 

In their new campaign, Chipotle is promoting their “Team Chipotle” menu with its popular “Unwrapped” video series featuring athletes such as Julie Ertz, Kate Courtney, Kolohe Andino and others. The “Team Chipotle” menu provides fans with the opportunity to eat like America’s top athletes by offering eight bowls on the menu, each curated by a different athlete. This is the largest celebrity-inspired menu in the brand’s history.

The campaign goal is to celebrate the American athletes and promote the health benefits of its food based on responsibly sourced wholesome ingredients. 

The official television ad will air on July 5 during the U.S. Women’s National Team soccer game against Mexico.

This isn’t the first time the company did a custom menu to reach different audiences. During Pride month, they partnered with celebrity drag queens for a competition. The drag queen with most orders was “crowned Chipotle Queen of Pride and received an additional $10,000 to donate to their selected charity”.

Takeaways

Menus curated by various influencers, celebrities and athletes is a great way to offer your customers something new and reach wider audiences. Since people are interested in different aspects of the lives of famous people, Chipotle is giving their customers a little sneak peek of their favourite meals and behind-the-scene training insights.

The timing of the campaign is also great because some of the athletes are going to compete in the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.

Honorable mention: Twitter is helping out student-athletes monetize their content

Twitter is teaming up with social publishing platform Opendorse to help student-athletes in the US to monetize their video content and connect with advertisers

Now advertisers will be able to browse for student-athletes and collaborate with them in video campaigns on Twitter based on different sport-related topics. The athletes will be paid based on the number of followers and video engagement.

Join us again next month for July’s edition of What’s The Hype! Sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss it. ⬇️

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