Just one day after Cam Newton made what were largely interpreted to be sexist comments towards a female sports reporter, he lost out on a major sponsorship deal. This, combined with heavily critical responses from sports media and his team – the Carolina Panthers – distancing themselves from his remarks demonstrate the power of the female consumer to both the NFL and commercial brands in general.
It started on Wednesday, October 4. When asked by Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue about the route-running of Panthers receiver Devin Funchess, Newtown replied by saying, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes.” Newton then repeated the comments with a grin after the room fell silent.
Since then, the Panthers, including head coach Ron Rivera, have distanced themselves from Newton’s comments, and the Pro Football Writers’ Association has criticized his remarks as well. The response of pro football should not be surprising when one considers that women make up nearly half of the NFL audience. While the sport is seen as geared towards men, viewership statistics tell a different—and important—story. There is no question that the NFL and its component teams and related organizations can’t afford to offend such a sizeable chunk of their actual audience.
One company reacted swiftly and decisively to the issue, no doubt with their market in mind—Dannon. The Dannon Oikos yogurt brand has come out saying it will no longer sponsor Newton. In a statement, the yogurt brand said: "It is entirely inconsistent with our commitment to fostering equality and inclusion in every workplace.”
This situation is a great example of how important it is for businesses to understand the bottom line impact of diversity and inclusion. Offending over half of the population and a huge portion of a company’s target market is certainly going to prompt a response.
It’s a lesson for everyone. Be inclusive—and when you, or someone on your team, or staff, isn’t—take swift action to make things right.