Any corporation that jumps into a hot social issue risks alienating customers, but the conversational and personal nature of social media allow brands to take a chance on controversy.
JetBlue jumped into the conversation about Jason Collins with posts on Twitter and Facebook on Tuesday thanking the NBA player for coming out:
Thanks Jason, today we’re all on the same team. pic.twitter.com/39Y5zFnWxJ
— JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue) April 30, 2013
The NBA and many players and politicians have expressed support for Mr. Collins, whose announcement Monday made him the first man active in one of the country’s top four sports to say he is gay. And Absolut, which has long marketed to gay consumers and supported causes such as gay marriage, weighed in:
— ABSOLUT VODKA (@ABSOLUTvodka_US) April 29, 2013
But most marketers without a relationship with Mr. Collins seem to have held back on the subject so far. Some people seemed to think JetBlue, an airline without a connection to the NBA or Mr. Collins, was trying too hard — stretching to turn a gay-rights moment into a marketing opportunity.
“Torn between applauding this sentiment and seeing it as a cheap marketing ploy,” one commenter said on Facebook.
“I guess I don’t understand what JetBlue has to do with this story?!” another wrote. “Does Jason exclusively fly JetBlue or something? Why the statement JetBlue? Who cares?”
Some didn’t agree with the message, of course, or think much of Mr. Collins’ announcement in the first place. “JetBlue you have just lost my respect,” one wrote. Others loved it, and JetBlue by extension.
— alain smithee (@alainsmi) April 30, 2013
Nike, which does have a deal with Mr. Collins, backed him this week. “We admire Jason’s courage and are proud that he is a Nike athlete,” a spokesman said in a statement, declining to say whether Nike might include Mr. Collins in a new campaign soon. “Nike believes in a level playing field where an athlete’s sexual orientation is not a consideration.”
A JetBlue spokeswoman said the airline is not working on any deal with Mr. Collins. “We aren’t in any current talks with Jason Collins, but have the utmost respect for any individual who’s true to themselves,” she said.
This story originally appeared on AdAge, a Skift content partner.
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