Reebok’s ‘no comment…’ Brilliant or stupid?

“No comment is not an option,” says the wise mentor.

“Why?” asked the crisis management neophyte. “If they can’t nail your words to the wall you’re better off, right?”

No comment today doesn’t mean what it used to. Today it means, ‘guilty as charged and I don’t want to talk about it ’cause talking will make me sound more guilty.’

And, if you don’t comment, you leave a broad breach in your reputation and communications that will inevitably be filled by — guess who? you got it — your critics. And no one wants that, right?

Then why is Reebok not commenting on its racy ad campaign that blew up in its face?

Here’s the lowdown, courtesy of Steve Goldstein at PRnewsonline, in case you’ve been tied to Nike and your iPhone app all week.

“Cheat on Your Girlfriend, Not on Your Workout,” had to be fraught with difficulty from inception. But I want to believe that Reebok’s marketing experts knew that. Or did they? Reebok’s not commenting. Hmmm. Strike 1. [who knew] said:  “This form of advertising shows a dishonest and disrespectful attitude towards women and your company should be ashamed to have even placed this ad in various places thinking it would be perceived in any other way.”

Could it not defend itself as unintentionally insulting, or even stupid? Hmmm. Wait, Reebok’s not commenting. Strike 2.

Angry comments filled the Reebok Women Facebook page and lit up Twitter, predictably.

Goldstein concludes: “Don’t look to Reebok for answers, because so far the company is not talking about it on the Reebok Women Facebook page or through its Twitter account. [Steerike 3!]

“Official word is bound to come at some point that either the whole thing was a hoax, the ad was created by a third-party and never made it through official channels or it was approved—in which case it’s a matter of a stupid, demeaning campaign that has backfired, much to Nike’s delight.

“In any case, Reebok has remained silent for too long and, however the situation plays out, the damage has already been done.”

Or, and this might be a stretch, because trying to transform stupid into brilliant usually doesn’t work; but maybe this is an attention grabber. Reebok marketers, and sales folks, always play second fiddle to the Nike marketing maestros. Is this just an outrageous publicity play? Are Reebok marketers so anxious to grab a larger chunk of the 21-35 male shoe market they’d risk alienating the same female age group?

Time will tell. But ‘no comment’ remains a damaging crisis management option.


About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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