1st May 2014
The Dangers of Misaligned Personal and Company Brand Values
By Jessica Huie
Clippers boss Donald Sterling’s PR nightmare should go down in history as a lesson to those in the public eye on what can happen when your personal values are not aligned with those of your business’ brand.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is built on the foundation of African American players. At last count in 2013, 76.3 percent of NBA players were African-American, but at the top of the food chain just 2% of the NBA’s majority owners, are people of colour. If we look specifically at the Clippers, ten out of twelve of the team players are black men, and yet off the court Sterling’s comments to his girlfriend that it bothered him that she would associate with black people and not to bring them to his games, has caused a global outcry.
Like when Gerald Ratner denounced his own jewellery as “crap” and wiped £500 million from the value of his stores overnight, and equally in this case, Sterling’s sponsors State Farm and CarMax quickly jumped ship. You know your PR nightmare has progressed to a car-crash when your country’s president adds his weight to the movement by personally commenting on the furore. Regardless of whether Sterling is forced to sell the team (as he probably should), the fallout from a conversation in which his true value system and mindset were revealed, has already been one of major commercial and credibility loss.
The thing about life is that the truth will, at some point reveal itself, and even those aware of the disconnect between their personal values and the pretence of their business values cannot fail to be exposed.
Times are changing, and in a western society where we are overwhelmed by material choice, the value systems and ethics of the major players are up for examination like never before. Our love for Apple and Virgin is, in part attributed to by the fact that we quite love the guy behind those power brands. We celebrate and buy into (quite literally) the drive, passion and genius of Branson and the late Steve Jobs.
On the other hand, the exploitative Sterling, a man who gets rich from a race he would prefer to be disassociated with, will have us binning our season tickets quicker than you can say “modern day slavery”, despite the magnitude of our love for the Clippers team.
There is no compensation for authenticity, and audiences can see through branding messages that do not correlate to behaviour.
If you are a business owner, putting a face to your brand can be a powerful PR tool, but before you step centre stage be sure to self-critique.
It’s ironic how many age-old quotes are relevant to the billion-dollar business world. In this case the old adage of simply practice what you preach, seems apt.
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PR maven Jessica Huie has 17 years experience in public relations and journalism. Having worked with high profile clients from Mariah Carey and Kelly Rowland to Hilary Devey and Samuel L Jackson, if there is one thing Jessica knows, it is how to generate public interest.
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