Being able to handle a crisis is an essential part of being in the public relations field. Public relations is all about making sure your client is putting their best foot forward and a huge part of that is making sure their reputation isn’t ruined after a crisis.
Earlier in the year, Adidas sent out an email with the subject line “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” (Calfas, 2017). Given that just four short years ago the Boston Marathon was home to one of America’s biggest bombings (Berry, 2013), one that injured 260 people and killed three, many people thought this was a pretty inappropriate subject line (Calfas, 2017).
One of Adidas’ major marketing strategies is sponsorship (Advani, 2016), and they had created official Boston Marathon gear for runners of the race (Calfas, 2017). The email was being sent to runners to not only congratulate them on completing the race but to advertise their Boston Marathon merchandise.
The conflict management life cycle begins in the proactive stage. The proactive stage includes environmental scanning, issues tracking, issues management, and crisis planning. These are all very similar in the respect that they all relate to preparing for a crisis. This is the stage of the cycle where a company is actively trying to either avoid crises completely or be completely prepared for them when they do happen.
After the proactive stage is the strategic stage. The strategic stage is where a company would be planning for a conflict to become a crisis. Seeing as Adidas wasn’t planning to send out an email that would enrage everyone who got it, this stage isn’t a major part of their plan. However, if it had been it would have included risk communication, conflict positioning, and crisis management. These things all have to do with preparing for the crisis.
Next is the reactive stage. This happens right after the conflict explodes, or in this case, the email is sent. Immediately after Adidas sent the email, it blew up all over social media, and people around the world were talking about it. There were screenshots of the email all over Twitter with captions like “@adidas you may want to rethink the subject line” and “Dear @adidas, I love you, but you need to talk to whoever is doing your email marketing…” (Calfas, 2017).
Adidas quickly apologized for the email, saying “We are incredibly sorry. Clearly, there was no thought given to the insensitive email subject line we sent Tuesday. We deeply apologize for our mistake. The Boston Marathon is one of the most inspirational sporting events in the world. Every year we’re reminded of the hope and resiliency of the running community at this event” (Daily, 2017). This would be Adidas reacting to the crisis.
There isn’t much Adidas could have done besides apologize. The reactive stage makes room for conflict resolution along with litigation PR, but Adidas was not in any legal trouble, nor did anyone or anything get physically hurt by the email.
Following the reactive stage is the recovery stage. This is the point where a company would handle reputation management and image restoration. Since Adidas was so quick to apologize about the email and let everyone know that they didn’t mean what the email was interpreted as, their reputation wasn’t damaged too terribly.
Moving forward, Adidas will most likely triple and quadruple check every email that gets sent, along with all other communications. The Boston Marathon was a catastrophic event that changed the lives of thousands of Americans, and no company in their right mind would purposefully make fun of such an event.
Advani, S. (2016, September 26). ‘IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING’: EVALUATION OF THE MARKETING PLAN OF ADIDAS. Retrieved October 02, 2017, from https://mpk732t22016clusterb.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/impossible-is-nothing-evaluation-of-the-marketing-plan-of-adidas/
Berry, C. (2013, April 16). Top 10 deadliest bombings on U.S. soil. Retrieved October 02, 2017, from http://www.masslive.com/news/boston/index.ssf/2013/04/top_10_deadliest_bombings_on_u.html
Calfas, J. (2017, April 18). Adidas Apologizes for ‘You Survived’ Boston Marathon Email. Retrieved October 02, 2017, from http://time.com/4745066/adidas-boston-marathon-email/
Daily, S. B. (2017, April 18). Adidas Congratulates Marathon Runners for “Surviving,” Apologizes. Retrieved October 02, 2017, from http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2017/04/18/adidas-email-marathon-surviving/