The Brand Move Roundup – April 8, 2020

We’re tracking the notable brand moves & highlighting the companies who are tackling this challenge successfully.

We started this series of brand updates on March 12, but the reaction has been so positive, and the crisis so fast-moving, that we’re going to move to a continuously updated rolling news format from now until it’s all over (hopefully soon). Keep checking back here for the latest updates on how brands are dealing with coronavirus.

Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, has pledged to donate $1bn (£800m) to fund coronavirus research to help “disarm this pandemic”. Dorsey, who co-founded Twitter in 2006 and went on to co-found payments company Square, tweeted on Tuesday that he was donating $1bn of Square shares to a charitable fund, called Start Small, to “fund global Covid-19 relief”. Dorsey, 43, said the donation was equivalent to about “28% of my wealth”. Dorsey has a fortune of about $3.9bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. It is by far the biggest single donation to the global fight to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

In Ireland, automaker Renault and insurance company AXA are providing front line healthcare workers who have returned from overseas to fight the pandemic free cars and insurance for two months. The program, called “Covid Car Cover,” is aimed at doctors and nurses who have returned to Ireland in the last month to assist with the pandemic. “It shows real courage to come home from overseas to help us fight the battle and we really appreciate what these returning doctors and nurses are doing,” said Paddy Magee, country operations director at Renault Group Ireland. “We want to help these men and women get organized with practical things like cars and insurance as they prepare to return to hospitals around the country and this is the most practical way in which we can help,” added Antoinette McDonald, a Director at AXA Ireland.

The American Heart Association has established a $2.5 million rapid research fund to fast-track scientific research to better understand COVID-19 and its interaction with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. The association intends to fund a national coordinating center and at least 10 COVID-19 and its Cardiovascular Impact Rapid Response Grants of $100,000 each. Additional supplemental funding grants are also being offered to the Association’s new Health Technologies & Innovation Strategically Focused Research Network centers to create new technology-based solutions for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.K. pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca are in talks to set up a lab to explore new ways of testing for the coronavirus to help overcome shortages of diagnostic materials. They will evaluate the use of different raw materials needed to carry out the tests and use their know-how and resources to help other companies or the U.K.’s National Health Service increase production. U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has pledged to increase coronavirus testing to 100,000 a day by the end of April, but shortages of chemicals known as reagents, and the swabs used in tests, have been blamed for delays. “Our pharmaceutical giants like AstraZeneca and GSK, which have no great history in diagnostics, are now working with our world-leading, but small, diagnostics companies to build a British diagnostics industry at scale,” Hancock said. A spokesman for AstraZeneca said in a statement Friday that the company had spoken with the government about helping and using its “in-house scientific capabilities to increase the effectiveness of the national testing effort.”. GSK has responded to requests to support U.K. efforts to expand testing for Covid-19, including providing lab equipment and scientific advice, the company said in a statement. While testing isn’t a core activity, it is in discussions about ways to help in the national effort, it said.

Pharmaceutical company Roche is speeding up in testing of its drug Actemra for potential treatment of coronavirus patients. With $25 million in backing from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), they will speed up Actemra’s phase 3 trial in COVID-19 patients. The BARDA grant is part of an expanded partnership Roche’s Genentech has signed with the agency to accelerate clinical trials of Actemra, which it is hoped could help fend off the severe lung inflammation that hits some patients. The drug won a speedy FDA go-ahead last month to be evaluated on top of standard of care to treat patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

While YMCAs throughout the U.S. have had to temporarily close their doors to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the YMCA of the USA has launched an offering that helps them remain connected to Y members – free online platform YMCA360, which offers exercise classes to Y members and non-members. More than a dozen classes, taught by Y instructors, are already available, including boot camp, barre, yoga and low-impact programs for seniors. Additional classes will be released through April and will expand to include art classes and activities for youth and families. Kevin Washington, president and CEO of YMCA of the USA, said that COVID-19 has presented the country with unprecedented challenges, and YMCA 360 is one way the Y is responding to help people of all ages stay active and engaged. Meanwhile, many branches have been helping their communities – with the help of volunteers and Y staff from hundreds of Y’s in the US, according to the latest figures, 504 YMCAs were providing food for children affected by school closures, 672 YMCAs were providing emergency childcare, 27 YMCAs were providing wellness checks for seniors and other vulnerable members, 5 YMCAs were providing emergency housing for those in need, 6 YMCAs were providing virtual youth programming and 46 YMCAs have committed to being a blood drive site.

PopSugar,been greatly impacted the most engaged-with women’s lifestyle site in the U.S., has created a new advertising program to support women-led small businesses, which have during this uncertain time. The site will donate 50 million advertising impressions across its owned and operated channels to women-led businesses as well as design resources to help businesses create new ads. The donated media placements will include a rotation of standard banner ad sizes across the PopSugar network, banner placements in newsletters, and inclusion in editorial and custom posts where relevant. “We are committed to helping women live their best lives and follow their dreams so we want to help however we can,” said founder and President Lisa Sugar. “Our hope is that this new project brings awareness to smaller businesses who might not be in a position to proactively advertise their services.”

Nike’s innovation, manufacturing and product teams, together with health professionals at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), are to design and build Personal Protective Equipment in the form of full-face shields and powered, air-purifying respirator (PAPR) lenses to protect against the coronavirus. Nike’s version of the full-face shield transforms elements of the brand’s footwear and apparel into much-needed PPE. Collar padding once destined for shoes is repurposed; cords originally earmarked for apparel reconsidered; and, most important, the TPU component of a Nike signature—the Nike Air soles—reimagined.

“Without proper facial protection, healthcare workers are at a higher risk of contracting the virus, which could place substantial strain on the healthcare workforce in the months ahead,” says Miko Enomoto, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, OHSU School of Medicine. “The full-face shields help protect healthcare workers’ faces and also help to prolong the length we can safely use a surgical or N95 mask. Nike’s generous response to the COVID-19 crisis helps to instill an added layer of confidence and support for healthcare workers, that we can safely carry out the jobs we were born to do.”

Apple has made changes to its Apple Maps app to better promote things like food delivery and medical services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Apple’s adjustments follow similar changes made by Google Maps. Grocery stores are now featured at the top, followed by a new category for Food Delivery. Other categories that are less practical during the COVID-19 outbreak have been shifted downwards. When you choose the new Food Delivery category, you see all of the nearby restaurants that are open and providing delivery options. Previously, Apple Maps prioritized categories including Restaurants, Fast Good, Gas Stations, and Cafes. Apple has already debuted its own COVID-19 application and website developed in partnership with FEMA and the CDC, its mask donations have topped 20 million and that the company is shipping a custom face shield to medical workers as well. Elsewhere, Siri has been updated to include a new questionnaire for queries about coronavirus. Apple Card customers can also defer their payments without penalty due to the economic uncertainty caused by the outbreak. And in a development that will be welcomed by struggling music labels and artists, Apple Music is making a $50m advance fund available for independent labels and distributors, to support the indie sector with vital cash flow during the uncertainty of global COVID-19 lock down. Record labels the world over are currently facing physical sales slashed by the closure of stores during quarantine, a lack of licensing income from public performance plays and sync use due to a lack of in-person events plus a sudden stop in movie/TV production and live music revenue reduced to zero due to unanimous cancellations of shows. In response, the company is set to inform independent labels and distributors later today (April 7) that any among their ranks who meet a minimum quarterly threshold of $10,000 in Apple Music earnings can qualify for one-off advance payments on future royalties out of the $50m fund

In the face of a massive fall in demand for ride-sharing, Uber has introduced the Work Hub, a new way for drivers to find other work, whether with Uber or another company. While encouraging drivers to switch to its Uber Eats delivery service, the company is also accepting signups for Uber Works, which connects people to shift work like food production, warehouse, and customer service in Chicago, Dallas, and Miami. And with Uber Freight, where carriers get paid for every load they deliver, they are providing priority eligibility screening for drivers with a Class A Commercial Driver’s License. The Work Hub will also include opportunities outside of Uber – companies that are currently hiring, like Domino’sShiptCareGuide, and others; it will be including links to job postings for other companies. “The most important thing we can do right now is support drivers.” Said Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber CEO. “They’re doing essential work to keep our communities moving as we fight this virus, but with fewer trips happening they need more ways to earn. With the Work Hub, we hope drivers can find more work opportunities, whether that’s with another of Uber’s businesses, or at another company.”

Chipmaker Intel is to spend $50 million on improving patient care, scientific research and online education. Of the funding, $40 million will go toward two main activities. The first is helping Intel customers and business partners develop tests, vaccines and treatments, including computer simulations and service delivery. The second is aimed at helping nonprofits get computer technology and online services to students who don’t currently have them, starting in the US and then expanding globally. The remaining $10 million will fund innovation projects. Three examples that Intel is supporting are an Indian effort to speed COVID-19 testing and genetic analysis to better understand which patients are most at risk; the Intel-powered Sickbay computer system from Medical Informatics Corp., which is designed to rapidly upgrade ordinary beds into intensive care unit beds with remote monitoring abilities; and the effort by UK vacuum maker Dyson and medical firm TTP to make the new CoVent ventilator, for which Intel is supplying special programmable chips.