The hot topic this week centers on Indiana, but not just the NCAA Final Four that kicks off tomorrow. The controversial Indiana “Religious Freedom” law will allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers and the NCAA, among other sports properties including NASCAR, are taking a stand against Indiana’s religious ruling.
In our 2014 IEG presentation we discussed corporate responsibility to social issues and how important it is to take a stand. People may not like what a brand sponsors, how a brand sponsors, or who sponsors and this negative reaction for decisions made can affect brand equity, rankings, and participation. Brands that say something, right away, fare better than brands that ignore the situation. We found that 44% of those surveyed felt sponsors should say something and be engaged in social issues.
We talked about these issues last year regarding both the Sochi Games and the LA Clippers – negative sentiment can be generated in an instant and tarnish a brand faster than it can be promoted. Controversies and reactions to those controversies continue to play a role in a sponsor’s brand health and sustainability.
By opposing Indiana’s ruling and speaking out publicly of their support for LGBT inclusion, NCAA has set the bar for sponsors to react. With the Final Four in full swing, and such strong opposition for this law, sponsors of the NCAA would fare best to issue a statement and quickly. If they can engage in this social issue to increase public sentiment and decrease the risk for negative associations, they may get more out of the Final Four than they imagined.
As the Final Four unfolds, we will be watching sponsors to see if they follow the NCAA’s lead or wait for the storm to pass.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/31355653@N07/8257073694″>Mason Plumlee | Duke Blue Devils vs. Temple Owls – Dec. 8th, 12</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>