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Voting Laws, Public Pressure Create Tricky Terrain for Brands

Major League Baseball decided to move its All Star Game out of Georgia in opposition to the state’s newly passed voting law. The decision is one of the biggest moves yet by a brand to use its platform and its economic power to influence or punish a state for voting restrictions following the 2020 presidential election.

MLBThe law, which follows an unexpected win in the state by Joe Biden in Presidential election followed by two Democratic victories in two Senate contests, has come under intense scrutiny with critics saying it is an attempt to disenfranchise black voters. Proponents of the law argue that its necessary to improve public confidence and voter integrity. Opponents say that argument is just an excuse stemming from Donald Trump’s repeated lies about the election being stolen.

Now, in an era of hyper partisanship, many brands have to decide whether to speak out and take action on deeply divisive issues that could upset large portions of its customer base or to stay quiet, enraging another portion of its customer base.

Before the law was passed, Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, both big brands in Atlanta, issues “lightly-worded statements,” according to an article from DigiDay. The Home Depot also expressed support for “broad voter participation,” but failed to mention the new voter law. They subsequently faced intense public pressure and later issues statements criticizing the law.

Now, these companies have managed to annoy people on both sides of the political spectrum. For those that support the laws, they see these firms as caving to public pressure. For those who wanted these companies to use their weight to oppose what they say is an unjust law, they see these condemnations as being too little, too late.

Critics say it’s not enough to come in at the “13th” hour, after the bill has passed into law, and express disapproval only after public pressure. “Ideally it won’t take boycotts and extreme pressure to get [brands] to stand with voters in America and denounce racism,” said Lynne Jansons, according to the DigiDay article. Jansons is a marketer who works with Creatives for Georgia.

“Corporations have to stand up. There is no middle ground,” Ken Chenault said of the Georgia voting law, according to an article from CNBC. Chenault is one of the first black CEOs of a Fortune 500 company. “This is about all Americans having the right to vote, but we need to recognize the special history of the denial of the right to vote for Black Americans, and we will not be silent.”

Harris Diamond, former CEO of McCann Worldgroup says firms “put themselves on this path” by taking a stance on social issues, according to an article from The Wall Street Journal. “Once you open up that door, you have to live by it.”

 

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