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A major event such as the Boston Marathon attracts many famous sponsors. When tragedy strikes, sponsors must consider their responses carefully and respectfully. In the wake of the monstrous and unimaginable tragedy of the 2013 bombing of the Marathon, adidas has sought to adopt an appropriate stance that both honors the victims and benefits the city.

All proceeds from the sale of its “Boston stands as one” t-shirt, introduced less than a week after the bombing, will go to a charitable foundation. The One Fund Boston is dedicated to helping victims. Another Boston Marathon sponsor, John Hancock, directly donated $1 million to The One Fund Boston.

These moves appear generally appropriate and helpful, not just for the company but also for those affected. The sponsors may be moved to act, considering their close relationship with the event and its participants.

In other cases though, corporate recognition of tragedy has been less appropriate. Adidas seemingly learned a quick lesson, when it suffered negative publicity for another shirt it introduced just a month before the marathon. Its “Ri5e to the Occasion” shirt sought to commemorate the efforts of Kevin Ware, the University of Louisville basketball player who suffered a terrible injury during the 2013 NCAA tournament. Without any evident connection or assistance being provided, observers accused adidas of exploiting a young man’s injury for its own benefit.

Source: Michael McCarthy, “Adidas Brings Out ‘Boston Stands as One’ Shirt,” Advertising Age, April 19, 2013

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