On April 2, 2021, Major League Baseball took a stand against Georgia’s controversial new voting laws, not with words, but with actions: It pulled this year’s All-Star game out of Atlanta. And just like that, the MLB, which oversees America’s National pastime, thrust itself into the divisive political fray.
This is just the latest example of a big brand inherently choosing a political side in the name of company values—beliefs that have been inordinately pressure-tested over the past 12 months. The killing of George Floyd, the politicized pandemic, the Capitol insurrection, Asian hate crimes and Georgia’s SB 202 “election integrity act” are only some of the events that have sparked more brands to speak out. This year’s The CMO Survey saw a nearly 50% year-over-year increase in marketers who believe it’s appropriate for brands to take a stand on politically charged issues.
If, when, and how to respond to politics is now a front-and-center quandary for marketers. As part of the research for my latest Forrester report which tackles this topic in detail, I spoke with over 30 business-to-consumer chief marketing officers (prior to MLB’s announcement). Here are three key observations from those conversations:
CMOs are recognizing that human issues are political issues.
Some of the CMOs I spoke with told me their brands have a “no politics” policy. But then they explained how they’ve made exceptions for social justice issues—viewing them, instead, as “human issues.” As Ally CMO Andrea Brimmer expressed: “Our belief is that diverse and inclusive companies are better for business, period. We don’t see that as a political issue. People have made it into a political issue. If it’s a human issue that’s authentic to our brand, we’ll do what’s right.”