Organizations remember Kobe Bryant, internet brims with rising ad spending, and Amazon workers speak out

Also: American Family increases its minimum wage to $20, San Antonio and Cincinnati zoos celebrate love between hippos, H-E-B offers a year’s worth of groceries, and more.

Good morning, PR pros:

 It’s not the death of a brand mascot, but H-E-B’s Super Bowl ad teaser has people talking over the chance to win a lifetime of groceries.

The company’s news release said, in part:

With the launch of this year’s Big Game commercial, the recently-named #1 grocery retailer in the nation will roll out a sweepstakes that gives participants who download the new My H-E-B app an opportunity to play a fun mobile game for a random chance to win the Texas-sized grand prize.

The chain’s efforts for the big game illustrate another way of standing out from the crowd (who doesn’t enjoy free stuff?) as well as using a big opportunity to push an initiative, such as a branded app.

Here are today’s top stories:

Sports organizations and brand managers pay tribute to Kobe Bryant

 Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven other passengers. Bryant was 41.

Shortly after news broke, tributes from athletes, celebrities, fans and more poured in on Twitter and other social media platforms. Many organizations and brand managers shared tributes as well. The National Basketball League issued a statement, and both Nike and Bodyarmor tweeted their regards, with ESPN covering many of the tributes to the late NBA star:

At several of the NBA games scheduled for Sunday night—along with the Recording Academy’s Grammy Awards, held in Los Angeles’ Staples Center—there were tributes to Bryant throughout the evening.

The New York Times reported:

Before a game between the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets, a public address announcer informed the crowd of Bryant’s death and called for a moment of silence. After listing several of Bryant’s many N.B.A. accomplishments, the announcer ended his tribute with “Rest in peace, Mamba,” a reference to Bryant’s nickname.

N.B.A. teams, such as the Spurs and Raptors playing in San Antonio, and the Celtics and Pelicans playing in New Orleans, purposely took 24-second shot clock violations at the start of their games in honor of Bryant, who had played under the jersey Nos. 8 and 24. Both have been retired and hang in the rafters at the Lakers’ Staples Center arena, which hosted the Grammy Awards on Sunday. The musician Lizzo dedicated a performance at the awards show to the former player, and fans quickly gathered outside the arena that evening, chanting, “Thank you, Kobe.”

Why you should care: Bryant’s death caused Twitter to trend immediately with news and tributes, and many news broadcasts were interrupted with updates about the crash and memorials to the late Bryant. Though a best practice in a tragedy such as this would be to shutter social media posts along with PR and marketing messages, “more than half of the [NBA’s] 30 teams were scheduled to play,” The New York Times reported. The messages and tributes throughout these games, as well as during the Grammy Awards, demonstrate the sensitivity you can balance with campaigns or events that must go on despite tragic news. It’s another reminder to be cautious and ready to respond (or go silent) in an unforeseen crisis.


AdAge’s Marketing Fact Pack 2020 revealed how the internet is driving brand managers’ efforts, with online ad spending projected to rise to about 60% of all advertising outlay in 2022. The growth of online content and marketing campaigns amid a decline for other media—including TV, radio and print newspapers.

Image courtesy of AdAge.

 As more brand managers focus on digital ads and campaigns, most of these efforts are focused on consumers’ smaller screens. Mobile internet advertising is predicted to take up more than 75% of internet advertising budgets in 2022.

Image courtesy of AdAdge.

How do these stats line up with your campaigns? Are you focusing on digital channels and smaller screens as well? Share your thoughts with us under the hashtag #MorningScoop.

Amazon employees speak out on climate change

 Depsite the company’s PR rules that bar employees from talking about the company’s programs and procedures without approval, more than 340 employees spoke out in a Medium blog post on Amazon’s climate change initiatives, criticizing the company for not taking action. The blog post was published through Amazon’s advocacy group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.

 GeekWire reported:

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice is part of a broader trend of employee activism occurring in the tech industry. Employees at Google, Microsoft, Tableau, and other tech companies are using their leverage to pressure their employers to take a stand on climate change and immigration. In September, Amazon and Google employees joined the youth-led Global Climate Strike and walked out of work in Seattle and other cities.

Why it matters: Silencing your workers on social and political issues can often bring your organization (and its reputation) a more negative effect than encouraging employees to speak out on the issues they value. Employee activism/advocacy is a rising trend, especially with younger workers who want to work for organizations that align with their own values. You must walk the fine line of protecting your brand’s image and maintaining brand voice while finding a way for employees to have their own voices heard, too.


The internet loves cats, but it seems that hippos also can attract social media love and headlines.

The San Antonio Zoo’s hippo Timothy recently sent a treat to his girlfriend, a 3-year-old hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo. The Edible Arrangement came along with a Facebook post in which country musician Aaron Watson shared a sweet message:

Dear Fiona,IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY! I bet you know that because like THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS!Anyhoo, my good buddy, country music star and “official Timothy wingman” Aaron Watson is helping me out with a special message for you on this special day. As you turn 3 I want to say that with each passing year you become more and more beautiful, charming and sweet! I mean, heck the moment I first laid eyes on you I already thought you were the most beautiful hippo I had ever seen and yet SOMEHOW, SOME WAY you just keep knocking me off my feet…and that ain’t easy…I HAVE FOUR and a low center of gravity!I hope you enjoy this message and the special gifts I’m sending you at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden today! I also had some of the zoo humans deliver all the “A Very Fiona Christmas” that people graciously sent me, to the children at Haven for Hope today as a special gift from me, you, and our fans on your special day!Sincerely,-TimothyP.S. Grandma says happy birthday “young lady!”

Posted by San Antonio Zoo on Friday, January 24, 2020

Cinncinnati Zoo responded with pictures of Fiona enjoying her gifts, which netted both zoos (and their stars) time in the spotlight:

Thanks for the edible arrangement Timothy! Check out our Facebook story for lots more Fiona footage and some of our favorite throwbacks.

Posted by Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden on Saturday, January 25, 2020

People Magazine giving Timothy some love!

Posted by San Antonio Zoo on Sunday, January 26, 2020

American Family raises its minimum wage to $20

The insurance company said the increase will affect almost 1,700 of its employees nationwide and will be retroactively applied to paychecks issued this year.

NBC 15 reported:

Enterprise Chief People Officer Gerry Benusa called it ‘essential’ to invest in employees who provide ‘exceptional customer service.’

“Offering competitive wages not only helps ensure we attract and retain customer-focused employees, it also allows them to invest in their careers, dreams and communities,” he continued.

Why it’s important: Though the increase will affect only a small cadre of American Family’s 13,500 employees nationwide (most of whom are agents who will not receive this increase), increasing employee incentives, remuneration and more can win you talent to enhance your workforce, as well as positive PR to boost your reputation.


We asked how important you consider visuals to your pitching efforts, and 76% of you said you always include them, with another 17% offering images and videos when asked:

Liz Kamper, Mountain and Northwest communication specialist for CBRE, tweeted an important consideration when using visuals:


 Will you watch this year’s Super Bowl for the game—or the commercials?

Share your thoughts with us under the hashtag #MorningScoop.

(Image via)

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One Response to “Organizations remember Kobe Bryant, internet brims with rising ad spending, and Amazon workers speak out”

    Simon DelMonte says:

    The salutes to Kobe Bryant show a profound insensitivity to victims of sexual abuse. Yes, he was a legend on the court. But off the court, he was accused of rape and even his own words condemn him. Corporations tripping over themselves to honor him are sugarcoating that misdeed.