I truly believe brands have a duty to improve the society they inhabit. It makes good, moral sense but it can also make great business sense. Bringing together the most unlikely of bedfellows; principles and profit.
The need for taking a position becomes greater as the world becomes more polarised, and we are currently at 11 on the global divisive scale. For me, there has never been a better time for brands to have an opinion and take a stand. Enter Slovakian sportswear company Nebbia. Yeah, I’d never heard of them before either. And that’s kind of the point.
Early in February, Nebbia produced some fairly innocuous social posts to promote their less-than-innocuous sports gear. The image was of four bodybuilders, two white females and two males, one white, one black. Pretty standard stuff you’re thinking.
Then the racism started. Nebbia were trolled for their choice of model with people commentating that the black athlete (you don’t see many of those!) was a murderer and other general racist nonsense that would be more at home on the football terraces in the Eighties. You get the picture, but the trolls didn’t.
Nebbia’s response was perfect. CEO Martin Peck released a statement on the company website declaring that while he knew it might be a financially risky thing to do, he would offer a full refund to all customers who took offence to the image.
The catch? They had to email the account firstname.lastname@example.org. It translates as “IAmARacist@nebbia.sk”. Simple genius. If you’re going to be racist then openly confess to it. He also said that he didn’t want racists to wear his clothing and that racism had no place in sport or society.
As you would expect some customers loved them and some hated them for their position. Some have pledged to buy their products in an act of solidarity and others threw more unnecessary abuse at them. The point is that they took a very clear stand. Brands also posted messages of support, the most pertinent coming from O2 which said “what matters, is to speak up when needed.” Wise words.
Now I’ve definitely heard of Nebbia and I respect them. But as importantly, I really like them.
Seb Hill is creative director at BBD Perfect Storm