Adidas waited too long to respond to an influencer who had turned toxic. Here’s what you can learn from their mistakes.
Sinead Norenius-Raniere, who serves as vice president of Product and Influencer Marketing Strategy at Cision, sees that concern with Adidas, who didn’t terminate their relationship over Ye, the controversial rapper formerly known as Kanye West, until Tuesday morning.
Adidas belatedly joined Gap, Balenciaga fashion house and Ye’s talent agency, CAA, in cutting ties with him.
Norenius-Raniere said the answer to why Adidas waited longer to respond may be complicated since Adidas’ legal contract with Ye may have led to a delay, but companies still need to be more proactive and transparent when dealing with the public.
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In Tuesday’s announcement, Adidas said they had started a review of Ye on Oct. 1, but did not sever ties until Oct. 25, more than a week after he made flagrantly anti-Semitic comments.
Why Adidas should have responded earlier
Norenius-Raniere said an earlier comment from Adidas would have been helpful.
“I believe that a statement of some sorts is important,” she said. “Because consumers want transparency, they want to know who they’re buying from and why. A little bit more information would have been a better move. I personally was surprised at how long it took.”
She added that Adidas could have made a public comment after Ye wore a “White Lives Matter” shirt during Paris Fashion Week on Oct. 3.
“I would hope that a brand working with someone like Kanye West understands what they are potentially walking into and understand their own risk tolerance for partnering with someone like a Kanye West,” she said.
Adidas started their relationship with Ye in 2013.
Adidas is facing tough times with projections of losing $246 million this year from its decision and Norenius-Raniere says the company is not out of the woods yet from a public perception standpoint.
What’s next for Adidas?
The company said it would next comment on the matter around their next earnings report in November.
“I think the next few statements are going to be very, very telling.”,” she said. “They are a huge brand and they are obviously taking very methodical steps. I think Adidas is having a lot of consulting and a lot of advising right now.”
She said companies should be aware of the potential harm that companies face when working with influencers.
“Who in the background is doing that risk assessment from a financial perspective?” Norenius-Raniere asked. “And I think that is where sometimes companies get tripped up because they are more enamored by landing the celebrity or landing the influencer and making that deal without taking a step back to really assess financial risk.”
Are companies doing more homework on influencers to avoid dealing with Ye-like situations in the future?
Norenius-Raniere believes they are.
“They would be silly not to,” she said. “We live in a day and age where everything is instantaneous. Certain things that companies or individuals will say have dramatic repercussions on people’s lives today, because everything is so instantaneous, right? We as PR individuals need to up the ante and make sure that our clients are prepared.”
How PR professionals can advise clients to avoid Ye-like situations in the future
And Norenius-Raniere said it’s up to communications professionals to emphasize the power of being proactive to clients.
“There needs to be a plan in place,” she said. “Companies themselves have a very clear direction on who they are, what they stand for, and what they will and will not tolerate. Who do we want to partner with? Does it align with our mission and values? All those conversations have to begin way earlier than at the time of an incident.”
And when those incidents happen, communications professionals can advise companies as they start a relationship with influencers.
“From there, then it becomes what is our plan when things go awry,” she said. “How do we as a company want to react, once again, does how we react aligned to our values?