Authenticity and cancel culture

JD Sports have cut ties with the ‘football ‘influencer’ Adam McKola.

Some anti-Israeli tweets were unearthed and JD acted swiftly, distancing themselves from the Full Time Devils creator.

McKola has subsequently released a statement on Twitter. He denies accusations of anti-Semitism…despite a string of tweets, where a clear correlation can be made.

But this article isn’t about anti-Semitism, or the Israel/Palestine debate. I am not qualified to speak with any authority on either of these subjects.

This article is about something slightly less important on the humanity scale. Brand values, male influencers and cancel culture.

Influencer marketing has been littered with controversy since its inception.

Fake followers, brand safety and questions regarding its true value have riddled this booming industry from day dot.

It’s important to state that many of these concerns have been fuelled by those with a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. And many of these concerns can be levelled at traditional forms of advertising. Is it moral? Does it work? Is it worth it?

At its best, influencer marketing offers the brand with an opportunity to tap directly into an individuals engaged followers.

This audience are theoretically invested in the journey of the protagonist, and therefore more receptive to his/her praise for a brand of product = AUTHENTICITY, the holy grail that all marketers, media buyers and brand managers crave.

But when it comes to engaging with young men (specifically in the arena of sport), brands are faced with a challenge. Authenticity comes at a price.

Copa90 were recently on the receiving end of criticism for their association with Poet. We wrote about the fallout of his sexist tweets and Copa90s Women’s World Cup coverage a few weeks back.

JD are the latest brand to inherit the baggage that comes with the popular creators in the fan media space.

It’s difficult to say whether or not these audiences have been built off the back of offensive views.

However, the content is there for all to see. When a creator is loved for ‘saying it how it is’, its hard to imagine that their success hasn’t been built on some unsavoury aspects of their personality.

The next question is; to what extent this should stop brands from working with them?

Let’s JD as an example.

I haven’t met Adam McKola, so can only speculate on his perspective of the matter.

But if he were to recognise and show remorse for the hurt he has caused, then could JD justify continuing the relationship with him?

Of course, a brand has its ‘core values’ (something we’ve written about in response to allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo earlier in the year), but its main purpose is to make money.

Most brands tend not to sacrifice profitability for the greater good of society. And often they are willing to overlook their own shortcomings for the ‘greater good of the business’.

JD hadn’t dropped Anthony Joshua following some controversial quotes about gender roles. And before his shock defeat probably wouldn’t have if he had posted the same tweets as McKola.

It’s very difficult to find an ‘influencer’ without some skeletons in their closet.

Of course a brand must take responsibility for who they decide to go into business with.

But for me, its more about getting on the front foot. After-all this is a money making exercise.

If JD had done their research, they could have found these tweets with ease.

Some may argue that at this point they shouldn’t proceed.

However, by this logic a brand would never be able to use a male influencer in the football space ever again.

The most outrageous influencers are often the most loved. And this is where brands want to play.

Individuals are also capable of change. So if that influencer shows remorse or is willing to learn then there’s still a deal to be done.

Smart brands will be those willing to face cancel culture head on, and install a qualified team to do their research and look beyond the outrage.

Alternatively, you might as well ditch your influencer budget. Coz they’re all wrongens mate.

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