Der Spiegel recently published a chilling account of rape. One the accuses Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese player has rejected the allegations, and in one tweet referred to them as fake news.
This article isn’t about Ronaldo’s innocence or guilt. It’s about the response of the brands associated with the global icon.
However, I highly recommend reading the interview with Kathryn Mayorga. Being as informed as possible is always important, no matter how uncomfortable it is to read.
But like I said, this article is about brands, and more specifically the weird world of brand values.
Nike, EA Sports and DAZN all swiftly expressed concern over the Ronaldo allegations.
That’s to be expected. That’s good. They should. It’s concerning.
But it was the wording of EA’s statement that sparked my interest.
Consistent with EA’s values.
“We have seen the concerning report that details allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo. We are closely monitoring the situation, as we expect cover athletes and ambassadors to conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with EA’s values.”
I couldn’t put my finger on it. But something irked me. I decide to ‘investigate’.
So what are EA’s values?
Well if you head to the about section of EA’s website you’ll find a number of words associated with purpose and belief.
Creativity. Pioneering. Passion. Determination. Learning. Teamwork.
These words form a foundation that drives and defines the company (according to the website).
I also Google’d their brand values to see if I could find anything else. I came across a page that included a few more pillars.
Be bold. Think players first. Create quality and innovation. Act with integrity. Be accountable. Learn and grow.
Brand values tend to be fairly generic words or phrases that provide context to employees and consumers. They can spill into corporate social responsibility, and suggest acting in the interest of others.
However, the primary function of any business is to make money. In EA’s (and Fifa more specifically), this has meant encouraging children to begin practicing behaviours traditionally associated with gambling.
And this is probably why the statement irked me.
To me a value is something that you are willing to live by, even if it has a negative impact upon yourself. Something you are willing to sacrifice for.
Removing Ronaldo from a campaign or computer game might be the right thing to do. But it’s hard to see how distancing yourself from an alleged rapist is really sticking to your values.
In a completely different situation, Nike have been largely praised for a recent campaign celebrating Colin Kaepernick’s sacrifice.
Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, and has subsequently lost his job. This is someone you can argue who is sticking to their values.
You can argue that it was brave for Nike to align themselves with him amidst the controversy, in an extremely divided country. However, the marketers have surely weighed up the costs versus the benefits and decided to proceed.
If Nike were willing to literally lose money by standing by a person, then you could say they truly had values (beyond making money).
This isn’t necessarily a criticism of brands, and their core purpose. It’s just worth considering how they’ll really make a final decision on Cristiano Ronaldo.
Will it come down to a matter of morals? Or will it have more to do with the bottom line?
While negative sentiment toward Ronaldo spiked amongst women on social media. The negativity from men has been far smaller. This means that Ronaldo remains an extremely valuable marketing commodity.
As this case evolves it’ll be interesting to see how many brands are willing to sacrifice profit for purpose.