Brands in the News

The LA Clippers, Donald Sterling and Branding

28 Apr , 2014  

The LA Clippers are in the news today and not just for their playoff performance. A series of brands are dropping sponsorship deals with the team. It is an all-star list of companies including State Farm, CarMax, Kia and Virgin America.

The commotion began when TMZ released a taped phone call between Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his girlfriend V. Stiviano. In the conversation Sterling made a series of offensive and racist comments.

Brands are now moving as quickly as possible to distance themselves from Sterling and the Clippers. CarMax, for example, released a statement saying it was ending its team sponsorship, explaining, “These views directly conflict with CarMax’s culture of respect for all individuals.”

This is the correct move. A brand that stands by the Clippers runs the risk of being associated with Sterling and his views. A brand that drops its sponsorships sends a very different message: that it believes in acceptance and does not tolerate racism. It is an easy decision.

Sterling’s comments were so extreme that everyone will now abandon the Clippers. It is very clear that Donald Sterling will have to apologize and give up control of the team, at least for a while. His brand is simply too toxic.

5 Responses

  1. Sue says:

    I think the team will only get stronger due to this experience. Just look at the first game after it happened! The sponsors will return in time.

  2. Nick says:

    Adam Silver’s quick and significant response will also have a major positive impact on the NBA’s brand and is hugely positive association for his personal brand, which had little to no meaning prior as a newly minted league commissioner. Conceivably, it would have been easier to impose a fine and temporary ban given the perception of the reliefs available in the NBA’s constitution in try to force out an owner. But I applaud Mr. Silver on fighting the good fight against a lawyer with an affection for practicing his craft. Even if this effort drags out in court it’s a positive signal to both players and fans that the league will not tolerate this behavior and should help the NBA brand to rebound from this situation.

  3. Gulnihal Uygur says:

    I think it is not only getting hands clean, but also strengthening the brand image of Clippers. It is mentioned in the news that the fine will be donated to organizations dedicated to anti-discrimination and tolerance efforts. This is a clear move towards converting crisis into opportunity. I am a supporter of Clippers, and this action of dropping sponsorship and donating the money to that very purpose makes me proud and even more loyal as a “buyer” of the brand. Go Clippers!

  4. Well that’s one way to kill a brand. Let’s hope the team will become stronger and more unified than ever once this is over.

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