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Adidas, Ye, and the cost of delay


By Sarah McKee

Who would want to be in Adidas’s shoes right now? In fact, is anyone even still wearing their Adidas shoes after they took so long to end their partnership with ‘Ye’ (Kanye West) following his hateful tirade of anti Semitic remarks over recent weeks?

I was one of nearly 190,000 people to sign the petition on to persuade Adidas to end this partnership following a number of anti Semitic outbursts from Ye that appeared to be escalating. At one point, he even said “they can’t drop me. I can say antisemitic things and Adidas can’t drop me.” And even after that, it still took Adidas six days to act.

Dropping Ye was always going to cost an eye-watering amount of money and that decision could not be taken lightly. But I strongly believe that it should have been taken quickly. Their delay showed the world that to Adidas, money was more important than integrity and that they might, just might accept Ye’s brand of codified hatred, if the price tag were too high.

Losing the money was inevitable, but could they have better protected their brand?

Their delay in cutting ties considerably undermined their eventual statement that “adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech”. And in those intervening days they lost face, lost customers, their stock price plummeted by 5% and the press has made reference to their origins in Nazi Germany. There are times when it pays to take a step back and delay. This was not one of them.

In crisis management, timing is everything. Each case is different and there are always many factors to consider. But there was no ‘grey area’ here.

The fact that Adidas eventually did the right thing means nothing to many of their former customers because they did not do it at the right time. In a crisis everything needs to be considered, but communications should be delivered quickly, decisively and above all, with integrity.

To talk to an expert about your own crisis planning, please contact us.

Adidas, Ye, and the cost of delay