Coca-Cola lives corporate social responsibility amid USSF debacle

How defining your brand purpose outside of a crisis can help you take a stand during times of chaos.

March 13, 2020
President of Client Engagement and Marketing

I am a woman.

I am a woman who played soccer, and other sports, as a kid.

I am an avid soccer fan – of both the men’s and the women’s game.

I am a soccer parent – both on the boys’ and girls’ side of the game.

And I am confused — about revelations in the pay equity suit brought by the US Women’s National Team, including contentions by the US Soccer Federation that male soccer players have “more responsibility” and play with “a higher level of skill” than the women.

I am also a marketer.

I study brands and people who buy those brands.

So this morning, I was uplifted that someone in a corporate boardroom was using their brain. The brands that support the US Women’s National Team – namely Coca-Cola and Budweiser – also seem to be confused by these statements just like I am. Hopefully the weight of their voices and the depth of their pockets will bring some sort of wake-up call to USSF.  They are demanding answers from the USSF about what it said.

When I read about it in this article in the dark shadows of my kitchen this morning, I could literally have been double fisting two beverages that I rarely drink because THEY GET IT.

The winners in this ugly, backwards, messed up battle should be the women who work just as hard as men to play the game they love. The women who miss out on things when they are growing up in the name of working hard, training to be their best, staying focused on the goal, winning on and off the field.

Sadly, the winners may only be the brands who know their consumers are watching. The brands who show that they support these players and all that it means to be an athlete. The brands who speak out and say that they believe these players – and the ones coming up behind them and all the other women in other sports – have the same demands, as well as skills, as their male counterparts.

I am also a business owner.

I have a ton of women – and men! – who come to work every day, ready to bring new ideas to the table, ready to solve problems, ready to create some form of communications that didn’t exist yesterday.

So in my mind, this event is really bigger than soccer and pay equity. It’s really about what corporations are doing to ensure that their workforce comes in each and every day feeling valued and appreciated as a human beings.

Corporate social responsibility falls on the shoulders of an organization’s leadership team. If it doesn’t start at the top, it doesn’t exist. And if it gets defined by your legal team, you might be in trouble. (Big trouble in the case of Carlos Cordeiro, the USSF President who was forced to resign Thursday night for condoning the misogynist legal strategy.) Increasingly, senior executives are realizing that CSR is integral to their brands and corporate cultures.

Leaders should use this event as a chance to stop doing things the way they’ve been done in the past just because it’s easy. Take the time to figure out what you believe in – your company’s purpose – and then connect that purpose with real, tangible core values that can be communicated inside to your staff and externally to your key audiences. Having a brand purpose identified and shared will allow your organization to stand up for what you believe in when issues like this arise publicly. Just like Coca-Cola has done with the US Women’s National team.

So, while I remain confused about how this will all shake out for a team that I love supporting, I know that I will buy a Coca-Cola product today – not because it’s what’s available, but because I honestly feel that they believe in what it means to be treated equal.


Chernoff Newman has deep category experience in agriculture, food and beverage, education and workforce development, energy, economic development, financial/insurance, healthcare and infrastructure. We design integrated marketing and strategic communications that are impactful, thought-provoking and influential. We marry ingenuity with business know-how to influence beliefs and behaviors for brands, companies and their many stakeholders. We influence attitude and inclination. We influence opinion and outcomes. And when needed, we also influence to quell contention.