TLC is facing a backlash from advertisers associated with its program “19 Kids and Counting” due to the recently revelations that one of the stars is a child molester. (I have never seen the show and if I had, I’d be too embarrassed to tell you.) Similarly, the international organization (FIFA) that runs what we Americans call soccer is under indictment for corruptions, and its sponsors are also getting nervous.
What should large companies with hundred million or even billion dollar ad budgets do? On the one hand, it’s easy to say “there have never been more advertising options in the history of the world today. It’s pretty easy to find a scandal free TV show or web video that isn’t involved with criminality. Why not avoid controversy and go with safe media choices?”
Indeed, that is the philosophy of most corporations. However, in this increasingly fragmented worked, it is harder and harder to reach large, mass audiences. Inexplicably, TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” reaches a large audience and equally inexplicably (at least to me) huge audiences worldwide like to watch soccer.
So it’s not just as simple as avoiding controversy.
Each controversy has to be viewed in isolation. Child molesting is so grotesque that TLC had little choice but to pull the show from its lineup (at least for now). The bigger question is, will they try to bring it back, even under the guise of a different name? Any company that advertises on a program starring a Duggar family member faces the question “Why do you use your corporate wealth to support and glorify child molesters?” And that’s not a question any CEO wants to hear, regardless of what answer is cooked up by the PR or legal department.
The FIFA/Soccer issue strikes me as different. In my experience, anytime professional or college sports is involved, people who are otherwise intelligent and rational become completely insane. Political leaders who pride themselves in fiscal discipline have no problem handing over billions of tax dollars to billionaires for sports stadiums, even if that means schools and roads rot in the affected communities. And voters applaud this irrationality.
People who normally oppose rape and murder suddenly turn a blind eye if a player on a team they like is accused or even convicted of those crimes.
So while it saddens me to admit this, I don’t think there is any downside to corporations sponsoring FIFA’s world cup or any other world soccer event. People love soccer and won’t punish corporations associated with it.
TJ Walker is president of Media Training Worldwide. You can find his online training courses here. http://www.mediatrainingworldwide.com/online-training.html