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Reebok & Donald Trump: Brands Should Stay Out of Politics

Reebok should stay in the fitness business.

After President Trump was heard last week telling the first lady of France, Brigitte Macron, that “you’re in good shape . . . beautiful,” the athletic brand came out with a snarky graphic showcasing when it is appropriate to make such a comment to a woman. (Hint: never.)

It was meant to be “on trend” and funny, but really it was just alienating. A major international brand just chose to align itself with only one portion of the United States. Seems like Bad Marketing 101 if you ask me. In what meeting does a director okay an idea to participate in partisan politics?

But Reebok moved on the sophomoric idea and unnecessarily showcased its true partisan colors. I think I can safely assume that not every person working at Reebok dislikes President Trump, and some may have found his comments harmless. I’m positive I can safely assume that not all of Reebok’s customers dislike Trump or care a whit about what he said.


And whether or not you think Trump’s comments were appropriate (I’m in the “not” camp), it’s certainly a better idea to keep classy as a brand than to stoop to the level of the classless. Michelle Obama’s famous “they go low, we go high” line has been spent on deaf ears since Trump shocked nearly everyone who didn’t support him by actually winning the election. They didn’t know they’d still have to “go high” if doomsday occurred.

If brand is everything, Reebok just cost itself a lot of positive recognition so it could participate in a meaningless slice of political sarcasm. Achieving 51,000 retweets, as the graphic did, is certainly enviable to social-media managers worldwide, but such political speak may have sales consequences down the road.

And while Reebok attempted to portray itself as a feminist hero, some might be turned off by the clear double standard. For example, Reebok has run at least one ad showcasing a near-naked woman sporting its shoes (see below.) Not exactly the picture of an anti-misogynistic ring leader.

When is it appropriate to exploit a woman’s body in order to sell shoes? I could create a graphic with all signs pointing to “never.”

A recent study from the American Association of Advertising Agencies found that 58 percent of consumers dislike it when marketers get political. And yet we’ve seen numerous brands step in the muck, most notably at this year’s Super Bowl, which featured a variety of commercials aimed at Trump’s immigration policies.

It’s interesting that whenever a brand does go political, it’s nearly always in support of the Left. It could be because all major advertising agencies are based in big cities like New York and San Francisco, where liberal values are the norm — and we all know where the media’s bent lies. So perhaps that’s why brands feel “safe” taking controversial stances.

You’ve heard it many times before, though: This is how Trump won in the first place. Media, business, academia, entertainment, and many politicians are tone-deaf to the needs, concerns, and cares of many everyday Americans. The Reebok ad is the quintessential example of how brands contribute to the problem.

Just as the Colin Kaepernick fiasco turned the once-neutral activity of football watching into a politically divisive event for former friends to debate, brands’ getting controversial on political issues will suck the positivity out of their image.

As National Review’s Jim Geraghty wrote of football, “I just want to enjoy watching the game. Nobody watches sports because they want to raise their level of ‘social awareness.’ Nobody tunes in to Monday Night Consciousness-Raising. Most sports fans are perfectly aware of the world’s problems.”

I’ve been a Reebok enthusiast for years. I’m an avid CrossFitter — the sport Reebok has become rather well known for — and most of my workout gear is theirs. I was even a Reebok fitness ambassador for two years and love their “Be More Human” campaign.

I’ll still wear and purchase Reebok, but I would encourage Reebok and other brands to focus on what they’re good at instead of engaging the latest episode of political soap operas. Then, when we move on from this political cycle, they can retain the fans they’ve worked so hard to acquire over the years.

— Ericka Andersen is director of content marketing at National Review.


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