Columbia Sportswear, other brands chime in on government shutdown in new messaging
- Columbia Sportswear's CEO Tim Boyle tweeted a message on Jan. 11 sharing the brand's position on the current government shutdown and urging politicians to "work together to open our parks," AdAge reported.
- The brand also took out full-page ads in newspapers, including The Washington Post, featuring the tagline, "Make America's Parks Open Again." Columbia worked with its agency of record McCann Worldgroup on the campaign.
- Other outdoors brands are also weighing in on the shutdown. REI tweeted a report on the impact of the limited services available at federal public lands and suggested that national parks use their fees to maintain operations. The North Face urged consumers to donate to the National Parks Foundation and use hashtag #weareparks.
Cause-driven marketing is most effective when marketers focus on issues that make sense for the brand. Outdoors-centric Columbia, REI and The North Face seem to be taking that to heart by focusing their efforts on the country's National Parks, just one area affected by the partial government shutdown, which is now the longest in U.S. history. News reports have shown overflowing trashcans and toilets and damage at parks since the shutdown.
Columbia's messaging, a play on the Trump administration's slogan "Make America Great Again," which has been the subject of multiple parodies, should attract attention. The brand also appears to be aiming for a broad reach for its message by embracing multiple marketing formats, including newspaper ads and social media. The campaign's tweets have racked up a few hundred likes and retweets.
Sportswear brands sharing their thoughts on the government shutdown underscores how marketers are being bolder about taking a position on social and political issues. Similar moves might have seemed too risky in the past but, consumers, especially Gen Z and millennials, are becoming more selective about the brands that they choose to support, expecting them to take a stance on the issues that they care most about. Nearly two-thirds of consumers worldwide purchase from, or boycott, brands because of their stances on political or social issues, according to the 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study. The data marks a 13-point increase from the previous year.
Other outdoors brands have embraced political messaging to highlight the issue of parks and public land. During the recent midterm elections, Patagonia publically endorsed two U.S. Senate candidates, Jacky Rosen, a Democrat from Nevada, and Senator John Tester, a Democrat from Montana, as part of its marketing and ran ads for the candidates with the tagline a vote for them "is a vote for public lands." Rosen won the Senate seat, and Tester was re-elected. Patagonia also called out President Donald Trump last year over plans to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah. The company replaced its homepage with the message "The President Stole Your Land."
Columbia, REI and The North Face are not alone in getting involved in the government shutdown. Others are offering support to the hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees, who are not receiving paychecks. Fast casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen announced on Twitter that it will give free salads to customers with government IDs at its Washington, D.C.-area locations, AdAge reports.