Demonstrating your brand values around DEI and ESG

Consumer and employee expectations for how brands behave, not just what brands say, continue to rise.  People want to have relationships with brands and organizations that share their values. 

The killing of George Floyd in 2020 started a long overdue social equity reckoning globally, and with it a shift for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): in importance, in urgency and in expectations. 

Your brand’s positions on DEI and Environmental Sustainability Governance (ESG) are important to not only articulate, but to demonstrate.

Your demonstrations show up most clearly in your business practices: how you produce and source your goods and services, how you take those goods and services to market, how you manage your business, including how you motivate and retain your employees, and how you relate to external stakeholders – including consumers.  It is important to find ways to bring attention to those demonstrations. Your customers, your trade partners, your employees, and your regulators expect to understand how you bring your DEI and ESG commitments to life.

Whether through commercial sponsorships or community investment initiatives with pro-social organizations, you build brand equity from these relationships.  The associated benefits of these partnerships impact your brand’s image in the eyes of consumers, employees, and other stakeholders. 

Pro-social organizations within the DEI and ECG spaces can be critical partners in providing opportunities to demonstrate your brand’s position in, and commitment to each. 

Virtue Signaling? 

Whether it’s supporting your brand’s position in DEI or ESG, the easy work is to align with one of the pro-social organizations doing valuable and meaningful work in their respective spaces, write a check and then do not much else. This is ‘say and pay, but don’t do’. It’s virtue signaling and your brand is likely to be called out for it by consumers (think cancel culture), and potentially by employees and other stakeholders.

The hard work, and the necessary work, is to find ways to add value to the mandate of these pro-social organizations, to have them help your brand on its DEI/ECG journey(s) and to make your brand part of the communities that surround them. 

Brand community investment partnerships with pro-social organizations should be evaluated for fit, for activatable assets and for value proposition (insider tip: we can help you with that).  You should be thinking about omnichannel activation plans to bring those partnerships to life.  Say, pay, do.

Being Target-efficient and Standing Out

Relationships with pro-social organizations are critical proof points if activated effectively and in a way that aligns with your brand values and your business practices. However, those partnerships likely won’t provide you with built-in reach and they may not provide you with target efficiency against your primary consumer/user audiences.

This is where commercial sponsorships come in. If properly selected and evaluated, commercial sponsorships provide you with both reach and target efficiency. They also provide a powerful opportunity for you to tell your brand’s DEI/ESG story, where your story can include the pro-social community investment partnerships in which your brand is involved.   

An authentic intersection point for one of the activation elements of your commercial sponsorship could be where the property’s focus around DEI or ESG lines up with a focus point for your brand. For example, one of the activations for Bridgestone around its NHL sponsorship is through the National Hockey League Foundation where Bridgestone supports diversity and inclusion initiatives in hockey. 

The benefits of activating your commercial sponsorships on a platform that speaks to your brand’s position around DEI or ESG are two-fold: 1) It demonstrates your brand’s commitment, and 2) It provides a more resonant way for your brand to break through from the clutter of other property sponsors. One such example: NRG Energy uses its sponsorship of NRG Stadium in Houston to demonstrate its commitment to a more sustainable energy future, using the stadium as a demonstration point for energy efficiency and energy conservation. 

Whether through a partnership with a pro-social organization or through strategic activation of your commercial sponsorships, when it comes to DEI and ESG, the key word is ‘demonstration’. How are you providing clear demonstrations of your brand’s positions around DEI and ESG that are authentic and relevant? 

By: Ian Malcolm

Demonstrating your brand values around DEI and ESG