Nike, Frye, and Barilla: Addressing Coronavirus Through Influencers

Curious what COVID-19 means for your influencer marketing strategy? Here are some lessons to ensure brand sensitivity.

Lena Young
April 01, 2020

The coronavirus is quickly impacting our personal and professional lives. Brands must always understand the needs and feelings of their customers, but moments like these require even more sensitivity. With the entire globe confronting the pandemic, feelings are heightened and priorities are shifted. Now, more than ever is a time to promote your brand’s ethos. What are your brand’s core values, how are you using these values to respond to the coronavirus, and how can influencers promote your initiatives?

Influencer’s main strength is their authenticity and ability to establish meaningful interactions that are not typically achieved through traditional marketing channels. If you want to connect with your audience and express sympathy and support during these challenging times, influencers are great verticals. However, it’s important than any and all campaigns are approached with sensitivity and care, as not to look opportunistic. We looked at brands from three different industries, athleisure, food, and apparel, to identify successful social media campaigns that strategically align brand values with audience sensitivity, offering important lessons on how to maintain brand integrity during a time of crisis.

Athleisure: #playinside and #playfortheworld with @nike

Nike Brand Values: Strength, Sportsmanship, Power, Unstoppable

In this new (and hopefully temporary) era of isolationism, home-workouts are incredibly popular. Not just for former gym rats, but for anyone now stuck at-home looking to add physical activity to the day. Nike was one of the first brands to quickly advocate for staying-home, while still maintaining a fitness routine.

Nike’s latest campaign encourages fans with the same motivation as their famous Just Do It slogan. A brand famous for its ethos of self-determination and invincibility, Nike uses the hashtags #playinside and #playfortheworld to say that staying-home is the most powerful thing you can do. By posting a picture of yourself exercising at home you’re now playing for a global team, and together fighting for global health.

Is #playinside appropriate? 

Using a helpful checklist provided by Ogilvy, let’s see if Nike’s campaign is appropriate during the current climate. A 👍indicates the campaign passes the criteria, while a  👎indicates that the content does not pass the criteria. 

👍Is there a risk the brand comes across profiteering or opportunistic?
👍Will the content not contribute to a sense of panic?
👍Does the content encourage or promote dangerous social behavior (ie face-touching, social gathering)?
👍Does the content make assumptions about the audience’s current lifestyle, situation, or access resources? 
👍Will the content impact the relationship of any partner? Should the choice to continue or pause be a joint decision?
👍Is the tone of the content appropriate for the current situation? Does it make light?
👍Does the content provide value for consumers?
👍Is the brand in a position to contribute to CSR initiatives in a powerful way?
👍Does the campaign promote brand ethos?

#playinside values: Global Sportsmanship, Strength, Winning 

Why It Works: Nike is able to use core brand values, relate them to the current climate, and encourage everyone to participate and feel powerful. 

Food: Stay #athomewithbarilla with @barilla sponsored cooking lessons 

Brand Values: Family, Passion, Food Expression

Barilla is easily the world’s most famous pasta company. While they suffered from some bad PR in the past, the company has turned a new leaf. On the brink of being perceived as “out-of-date”, Barilla now maintains a progressive online voice. There was a four-week gap between Barilla’s oldest social media post, and a new post addressing the coronavirus pandemic. As an Italian brand, the impact of COVID-19 obviously hits close to home. It’s fair to assume the company needed time to asses how to move forward with marketing initiatives while best-supporting customers in Italy and abroad.

Barilla’s latest initiative creatively invites those stuck at home to join a professional chef in a cooking lesson. Lockdown life means cooking and eating at home. And, despite one’s culinary experience, a new recipe is probably needed about now. This campaign perfectly addresses a global experience: being stuck at home and needing to cook. And, what better than to learn how to make pasta than from an Italian chef?

Is #stayinsidewithbarilla appropriate?

How does Barilla fair using the Ogilvy brand sensitivity guidelines?  👍indicates the campaign passes the criteria, while a 👎indicates that the content does not pass the criteria. 

👍Is there a risk the brand comes across profiteering or opportunistic?
👍Will the content not contribute to a sense of panic?
👍Does the content encourage or promote dangerous social behavior (ie face-touching, social gathering)?
👍Does the content make assumptions about the audience’s current lifestyle, situation, or access resources? 
👍Will the content impact the relationship of any partner? Should the choice to continue or pause be a joint decision?
👍Is the tone of the content appropriate for the current situation? Does it make light?
👍Does the content provide value for consumers?
👍Is the brand in a position to contribute to CSR initiatives in a powerful way?
👍Does the brand promote brand ethos?

#stayinsidewithbarilla Values: Global Cooperation, Family-friendly, Food Expression

Why It Works: As an Italian-owned company, Barilla’s campaign carefully takes into account the current situation of followers, while still sharing a passion for food in a relatable and useful format. 

Apparel: Post #AtHomeWithFRYE @frye will donate to Feeding America

Frye Brand Values: Americana, Artisinal, Timeless, Social Responsibility

Frye is a leading American footwear brand. Like many other retailers, on March 16th Frye announced the temporary closure of all brick-and-mortar stores until March 29, (stores are still closed), with sales only taking place online. The company launched a COVID-19 response fund, offering a discount code: FIGHTHUNGER which would apply a 20% discount to all orders, and automatically donate $10 to Feeding America, and organization Frye has been supporting since 2017. 

To further their work with Feeding America, Frye began #AtHomeWithFYRE, an initiative encouraging fans to post a picture of them at home in a pair of Fryes. For every photo, the brand would donate $1 to Feeding America, and every week a winner would be selected and sent a free pair of Fryes. A quick hashtag search brings up lots of stylish people, at home…in their Fryes. Not only does this initiative build brand exposure, every individual who participates knows their post is actually a donation to Feeding America. Essentially, Frye has turned its customers into philanthropists. 

Is #AtHomeWithFRYE appropriate?

It may be chic, but is it sensitive? A 👍indicates the campaign passes the Ogilvy criteria, while a  👎indicates that the content does not pass the criteria. 

👍 Is there a risk the brand comes across profiteering or opportunistic?
👍Will the content not contribute to a sense of panic?
👍Does the content encourage or promote dangerous social behavior (ie face-touching, social gathering)?
👎Does the content make assumptions about the audience’s current lifestyle, situation, or access resources? 
👍Will the content impact the relationship of any partner? Should the choice to continue or pause be a joint decision?
👍Is the tone of the content appropriate for the current situation? Does it make light?
👍Does the content provide value for consumers?
👍Is the brand in a position to contribute to CSR initiatives in a powerful way?
👍Does the campaign align with brand ethos? 

#AtHomeWithFRYE value: Community support, Philantrophy 

Why It Works: Fyre’s campaign is extremely authentic because it promotes an NGO the brand has a history of supporting and uses its products as a tool to raise awareness about an important issue. It would be great if participation was not just limited to those who own Frye shoes. 

Bonus Campaign: join @lululemon for #thesweatlife

Athleisure brand lululemon is running a wonderful initiative, offering free-online exercise and mindfulness classes. If you’re looking for some additional at-home activities, we definitely recommend it.

Bonus Campaign: @dysonhair keeps you staying fresh with #dysonhairathome

For many, quarantine means sweatpants and no makeup. However, there are positive benefits of maintaining daily routines, for many this includes a beauty routine. Dyson invites customers to share their style secrets using the clever hashtag #dysonhairathome. If you’re looking to up your at-home style we highly recommend.

Have questions about your current influencer strategy and COVID-19? Our experts are always here to talk with you. 

Stay healthy & stay safe!