The heaven or hell of brand ambassadors

10 October 2022 | 5 min read | PR
James Gwinnett
James Gwinnett

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”4.6.5″ _module_preset=”default”][et_pb_row _builder_version=”4.6.5″ _module_preset=”default”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”4.6.5″ _module_preset=”default”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.6.5″ _module_preset=”default”]Modern consumers are increasingly aware of our impact on the planet and of corporations’ attempts to pull the wool over our eyes at their failings to minimise their impact on the planet.

The recent findings by Clearly PR that one in five companies admit to greenwashing say it all. And that’s just the ones who admit to it – I wonder what the real figure is? 

While there are some organisations that are genuinely making a difference – take Patagonia as the prime example – the adverse effect is that other companies are left playing catch-up and trying to jump on the ESG bandwagon without any real thought as to their efforts.

Many want to be seen as engaging in ESG initiatives because they think it will look good, but without actually wanting to do good. The ramifications of these efforts are therefore more negative than positive when they’re ‘called out’ on them. [/et_pb_text][et_pb_image src=”” title_text=”Clearly blog image (7)” _builder_version=”4.6.5″ _module_preset=”default” hover_enabled=”0″ sticky_enabled=”0″][/et_pb_image][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.6.5″ _module_preset=”default”]Take Boohoo, which recently took serious flack for engaging Kourtney Kardashian as its ‘sustainability ambassador’, because of the entirely obvious greenwashing tactics involved in the partnership. Already under the spotlight for its rising carbon emissions – resulting in plummeting share prices – the move is laughably superficial.

From private jets to seemingly never wearing the same item of clothing twice, Kardashian is one of the least sustainable ambassadors imaginable, and it is nothing more than a PR stunt and an attempt to boost brand awareness through Kardashian’s 200 million Instagram followers. The Metro branded it ‘the height of hypocrisy.’ 

The trouble is, the race for ‘awareness’ is forcing brands to team up with celebrities simply for their following, rather than doing so because their values align.

adidas is another example. Largely a fierce advocate of sustainability through a range of initiatives like shoes made from recycled plastic, the brand’s partnership with Kanye West is entirely misjudged and came back to bite the German sportswear retailer in the arse last week at the Paris Fashion Show.

After Kanye appeared in a long-sleeved t-shirt with the words ‘White Lives Matter’ – a slogan that was used by racist organisations as a counter to ‘Black Lives Matter’ and has since been classified as hate speech – on the back. 

adidas has subsequently said it will review its partnership, stating ‘successful partnerships are rooted in mutual respect and shared values’, but it begs the question, ‘why did they partner with him in the first place?’ when the guy is such a liability – with previous comments about slavery amongst other idiotic standpoints – what were these ‘mutual respect and shared values’ when pen was put to paper?

Amongst adidas’ values are authenticity and trust. Well, forgive me if I’m off the mark here, but Kanye West is about as unauthentic as you can get – I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him. 

Unfortunately, the fact that the people who are truly doing good in the world don’t have 200 million followers, or 18 million in Kanye’s case, means they are going under brands’ radars.

Why would you pay someone who’s a champion of a cause that is important to society or the planet – sustainability, mental health, equality, the list goes on – if they only have 1,000, 10,000 or even 100,000 followers, when you could plump for 1,000,000+?[/et_pb_text][et_pb_image src=”” title_text=”Clearly blog image (4)” _builder_version=”4.6.5″ _module_preset=”default”][/et_pb_image][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.6.5″ _module_preset=”default”]But there’s an interesting contradiction here in that even if brands are trying to do good, it’s their fault that we’re here in the first place. It’s brands that have given rise to an increasingly fake world, where seemingly every single post on social media is plugging one product or another, and entirely talentless people make money from being ‘influencers’.

Case in point; what are Kourtney Kardashian’s talents? I’ll wait… 

adidas, the second biggest sports retailer in the world, will be fine. But they – and their influencer marketing teams – should know better and they should be severing ties with Kanye. 

Other brands that want to be taken seriously also need to be acting seriously and ridding themselves of connections with such shallow individuals. It’s time for brands to go back to basics and re-examine their mission. If this is simply to produce poor quality, fast fashion items, they need to do better. They need to stand for something. They need to define their values and partner with individuals who share these, even if they have a smaller social media following. 

Though in the case of Boohoo, there’s a strong argument that the brand simply doesn’t have any values, so maybe the Kardashian tie-up is a match made in heaven – or hell.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]