The Brand Move Roundup – July 6, 2020

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

Three months ago, when the gravity of the situation became clear, we started daily reporting on how brands were dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. What’s now becoming clear is that the current climate is one of near-perpetual disruption. So we made the decision to keep on telling the stories of inspiring brand leadership and strategy amid the latest crises in an anxious world. Our goal remains the same: to provide an up-to-the-minute source of information, inspiration and insight on brand moves as they happen.

Nike appears to have removed all of its NFL fan apparel for the Washington Redskins from its website. The move follows pressure from another sponsor, FedEx, which asked the team to change its name. Nike did not comment on the removal of the team’s products but, in a statement about changing the nickname said: “We have been talking to the NFL and sharing our concerns regarding the name of the Washington team. We are pleased to see the team taking a first step towards change.” Earlier, three letters signed by close to 90 investment firms and shareholders – collectively representing a worth of $620 billion – asked Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to cease their business relationships with the team until it changes the name. FedEx, which paid $205 million for naming rights to the stadium Washington plays in, said: “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.“

Retailer Walmart is converting 160 of its US store parking lots into drive-in movie theaters. As the pandemic continues, drive-in theaters have been making a comeback as a safe alternative to the traditional movie theaters that remain closed in much of the country.

Walmart  is partnering with Tribeca Enterprises, the Robert De Niro-backed media company, to program the films. Locations and movie titles haven’t yet been announced, but they will be revealed later on a special website. The event will run through October and encompass more than 300 showings. Walmart will use the nearby physical stores to let people use curbside pickup for treats and food. Drive-in movie venues have been popping up all over the country, with small business owners forced temporarily to shut down their traditional theater operations opting to reopen old drive-in locations or build makeshift theaters in parking lots in a bid to make up for lost income.

Publishing company Hearst has just released some results from an interesting European consumer survey. Before the virus hit, says the company, 69% of Hearst consumers had a positive outlook on life. When the lockdown started this dropped to 64%. However, this has now increased to 74% as people envisage a brighter future. “Our work at Hearst, where we talk to over 60k people on our panel every day. suggests that consumers are re-appraising their lives and planning for a different future,” said James Wildman, CEO of Hearst UK and President of Hearst Europe. “Of course, there will be changes based on hard economic factors and also on how people will want to work at home more, buy more online and prioritize their health more, but we can also expect to see changes in many other areas. Through reappraisal and valuing life’s ‘basics’ so much more (family, friends, food, our health, etc), consumers are likely to be less frivolous and less materialistic. Yes,” he continued, “we will go on holiday again, go to events  and go out to socialize (albeit with caution initially), but we will also cook at home more, spend more time with family, think about our mental and physical well-being more, take more pride in our homes, do more in the community and be kinder to ourselves. We think consumers will become happier and slow down a little and we will also expect brands to change: To have a greater purpose, to care more, to be more altruistic, to be virtual.”

Baseball’s most powerful agent is convinced that NBA games can safely return without fans even as cases of Covid-19 surge in the U.S. “Unlike other sports, with baseball we have an actual trial and model in Korea, Japan and Taiwan,” Scott Boras said. “They’ve been able to play games without any hospitalizations to any of their players.” Boras’ comments came as doubts continue to swirl about the decision to start the season. Four players have decided to sit out the year and on Friday the game’s biggest star, Mike Trout, revealed that he’s concerned about playing in the midst of the pandemic with his wife pregnant with their first child. Thirty-one players and seven staff members tested positive for Covid-19 in Major League Baseball’s first round of testing, according to a joint announcement from the league and the Major League Baseball Players Association. That was just 1.2% of the total 3,185 samples tested, a rate far lower than 5% of players reported by the National Basketball Association in its initial round of testing. “We have an understating that baseball is a socially distant sport unlike basketball and football,” said Boras. “There’s been a clear adaptation of protocols in other environments.”

For Swiss running shoemaker On, whose proprietary cushioning technology has attracted Roger Federer as an investor, the global coronavirus lockdowns has had positive side effects; online sales more than tripled in the three months through May as consumers wary of gyms turned to outdoor running. According to Chief Executive Officer David Allemann, demand has remained just as strong after brick-and-mortar stores started to reopen, signaling that the trend may be here to stay even as gyms restart. “The whole lockdown has been transformational for our consumers and our industry,” Allemann said. “This outdoor-running boom is really going to support our brand momentum.” Federer, who became a shareholder of the Zurich-based company in November, has just unveiled the latest On shoe, which he helped design. That may help the underdog label compete with giants like Nike, which has a line named after Michael Jordan, and Adidas, which sells Stan Smith shoes. The Swiss label has become one of the world’s fastest-growing running shoe brands since it was founded a decade ago. It’s ranked No. 6 in the U.S. running shoe category, with a 6.6% market share.

Radical plans to give all adults £500 and children £250 in vouchers to spend in sectors of the economy worst hit by the Covid-19 crisis are being considered by the UK Treasury. The proposals, drawn up by the Resolution Foundation thinktank, are aimed at kick-starting economic recovery by triggering a highly targeted surge in spending. Under the plans the vouchers could only be spent in certain sectors, such as hospitality and “face to face” retail, as opposed to online. The proposals are similar to successful schemes already used in China, Taiwan and Malta. In April, the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the Covid-19 outbreak is believed to have started, issued 500 million yuan (£57m) in consumption vouchers for use in restaurants, shopping malls, convenience stores, and cultural, sports and tourist venues.

The money could be allocated via vouchers or smart cards, and transactions could be made with the use of mobile phones. The think tank suggests a one-year time limit for spending the money and that the scheme, which would cost the state around £30bn, could be closed down in the event of a second wave of Covid-19. Economic activity in the hospitality sector was down more than 90% in April and there are fears that many sectors will continue to be badly affected while social distancing remains in place. In Germany and France, where lockdown restrictions have already eased, leisure and retail trips remain more than 10% down on pre-crisis levels.

Cloudflare, which provides tools that protect websites from cyber attacks and allows sites to load content more quickly, has launched its own online TV channel, Cloudflare TV, to communicate with customers. Matthew Prince, the company’s CEO, said: “So much of our business in the past came from events and meeting people, and that’s not coming back anytime soon, so we wanted to allow people to find creative ways to engage the audience. My favorite show is Cooking with Cloudflare, where our employees are interviewing customers about their favorite recipe, then they cook it live on air.”

A survey by UK clothing industry charity WRAP suggests that two in five UK citizens (41%) have had a clear out of unwanted textiles and clothing during the Covid-19 lockdown, with the majority storing their items at home until lockdown lifts. The sustainability body has published its findings to help the charitable sector, local authorities and recyclers prepare for the expected influx of textiles likely to be donated to charity shops and via other donation routes, as these begin to reopen. Data reported to WRAP suggested that the equivalent to 184 million textile items had been cleared out, and the majority (57%) are still at home to be disposed as lockdown ends. The most common textile items the public sorted out during lockdown are clothes (37%) with outerwear making up the bulk – particularly tee-shirts, blouses, jumpers, hoodies and sweaters. People have also spent time sorting through their unwanted shoes (19%), bedding (12%), bags and handbags (10%), accessories (10%) and household textiles (10%). WRAP estimates that as many as 22 million pairs of shoes, and 67 million clothing items will soon be disposed of via charity shops, collection banks and other donation routes. It has launched a campaign called Love Your Clothes, developed by WRAP to help UK citizens buy, use and dispose of their clothing in ways that protect the environment. It aims to reduce the environmental impact of clothing and influence a more circular approach to clothing globally. The campaign is part of WRAP’s Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) 2020 Commitment, which brings together clothing retailers, brands, suppliers, local authorities, recyclers, charities, trade bodies, academics and public sector bodies to reduce the carbon, water and waste impacts linked to clothing.

Twitter engineers have been working since January on an internal effort to replace problematic yet commonplace programming language like “master” and “slave,” as part of a larger effort among open-source developers who have been working to remove references to slavery from the programming community.  Microsoft-owned GitHub made a similar move last month when CEO Nat Friedman said the company was replacing the term “master” with more neutral language. The initiative started back in 2014 with the Drupal project, which began replacing master and slave with terms like “primary” and “replica.”

In addition to phrases like “slave,” “master,” and “blacklist,” engineering teams at Twitter are recommending going a step further to change other terms that could be considered racist, ableist, or sexist. The list includes changing “man hours” to “person hours,” changing “blacklist” to “denylist,” and “grandfathered” to “legacy status.” Meanwhile, David Kleidermacher, Google’s VP of engineering, pulled out of a talk he was scheduled to give at the Black Hat conference in August, saying that terms like black hat and white hat need to change.  “The need for language change has nothing to do with the origins of the term black hat in infosec,” he tweeted. “Those who focus on that are missing the point. Black hat/white hat and blacklist/whitelist perpetuate harmful associations of black=bad, white=good.”

More than a year after Amazon announced that it would lead a $575 million investment into UK food delivery startup Deliveroo, the country’s competition regulator, the CMA, has finally announced that it has provisionally cleared the deal, saying that it does not pose any threats to potential competition. The investment gives Amazon a 16% stake in Deliveroo. Deliveroo, according to its statements to the CMA, has gone from near-bankruptcy to relative financial health during the lockdown. It also says corporate purchases of its virtual gift cards is up 15x – ie more firms are paying for remote workforce to have a free lunch. Deliveroo said average monthly spend per meal was up 40% March-May.

In a time when statues seem to be coming down everywhere, there’s one contrasting piece of news – the Minnesota town where one of the most famous scenes from Prince‘s movie Purple Rain was filmed has unveiled a life-sized bronze statue of the musician in a garden filled with purple flowers and other tributes to the artist. The monument is in Henderson on the banks of the Minnesota River, about 45 minutes from Minneapolis and Prince’s Paisley Park Studios. The statue cost $40,000, with most of the money coming from fans, who gave $100 to have their names included on a bronze donor plaque.