Matter. Don’t Market.

September 9, 2020

It's a philosophy. A call to action. A belief system that companies have a responsibility to create community and embody the needs and wants and passions of their most important audiences. It's a warning - to resist treating people like consumers and to instead create deeper, more meaningful reasons for them to want to buy your stuff, engage your brand, and find value in a relationship with you. It's recognition that marketing and advertising for short-term gains only is simply inconsistent with today's culture.   On Wednesday August 26th, in the wake of yet another occurrence of deadly racial injustice perpetrated by the power structure - this time in Wisconsin - the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott Game 5 of their best-of-seven playoff series. Unprecedented doesn't even begin to describe what then ensued. The NBA postponed all of its playoff games. So did the WNBA. Other professional leagues then postponed their games. In this moment, the NBA season itself is once again in jeopardy - not because of the pandemic, but because the players - the PRODUCT - the BRAND - believe any short-term gain in revenue is far outweighed by the power and significance of what a more permanent boycott could represent and help enact.   In recent years, the NBA - led by socially-conscious players like LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade - made it quite apparent what their brand stood for. The entire concept for the "NBA Bubble" was concocted with a demand for social justice as its core tenet, and that ethos is apparenet in all facets of the campus in Orlando where the players have been sequestered for the past month-plus.   If in fact the NBA cancels the rest of its season, it will send shockwaves throughout culture. Games won't be played, stats won't be accumulated, winners will not be crowned, and in essence the "brand" will incur huge short-term monetary losses - not something most companies would do voluntarily. But the NBA, per its brand ethos and the standards set by its most prominent constituents, is not in this for the short haul. Their focus is not monopolized by short-term gains and short-term revenues. They are playing the long game. They have a message they'd like to send the rest of the world, a position they'd like to hold in this ongoing narrative, a mandate they'd like to convey.   Like ripples in the ocean sparking a tidal wave, if the NBA cancels the remainder of this season, billionaire NBA owners will lose a lot of money. So will television networks who rely on ratings to sell advertising. So will the advertisers who no longer have live sports as a mechanism to reach the masses. So will sports betting platforms and online content platforms... and food and beverage companies... you get the point.   The NBA has already sent a message to the rest of the world - a message that's entirely consistent with everything the brand stands for. It has nothing to do with marketing, but everything to do with mattering. And for those of us who love the NBA, it's going to be hard not having playoff basketball to enjoy should the players decide to boycott the rest of this season.   But at the same time, because the NBA embodies the passions and beliefs and needs and wants of its most fervent audiences, we NBA fans will be emboldened by such a stance, and we'll become that much more impassioned about this brand moving forward.   Matter. Don't Market.   It's a way of life. A set of inalienable principles. And the building blocks for a bond between people and brands that's stronger than any sales promotion, quarterly sales metrics, or even stock price.

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