Many companies active in the global licensing and consumer products business are doing what they can to support medical professionals and consumers during the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to being the right thing to do, their efforts help keep some of their workers employed, utilize existing capacity and already-purchased materials, and give them a positive image among their consumers.
The initiatives, to date, fall into several classifications:
- Making masks and protective wear. Fanatics and Major League Baseball repurposed a factory to produce masks and gowns from on-field jersey fabric. Fashion designers and retailers such as Christian Siriano, H&M, Zara, Ralph Lauren, Baby Dior, Gucci, and more are transitioning some of their factories and/or assigning some of their workers to this task. Joann Fabrics and Crafts is enlisting its crafty customers to sew face masks and protective gear.
- Producing hand sanitizer. Spirits conglomerate Diageo provided 2 million liters of alcohol to be used to make more than 8 million bottles of free hand sanitizer and donating them to healthcare workers. Kylie Jenner and Kris Jenner teamed with Coty, a major investor in Kylie’s cosmetics brand, to produce hand sanitizer for hospitals in southern California. And toy company Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty paired with Five Saints Distilling to create hand sanitizer to be donated to medical professionals.
- Manufacturing ventilators, face shields, and other hard goods. MGA Entertainment is constructing ventilators, ventilator valves, and goggles, including in its Little Tikes factory, as well as making its 3D printers available to hospitals so they can address specific needs. Nike recently started making face shields from elements and materials used in its shoes and apparel. Car companies, electronics brands, and 3D printing services have redirected their operations to the production of ventilators or parts.
- Leveraging distribution and delivery networks. Burberry is delivering protective gear by utilizing its global supply chain. Footwear licensee Leomil and its sibling divisions acquired 200,000 face masks and donated them to Belgian healthcare providers. Among other initiatives, Burton, the snowboard maker, is donating 500,000 respirator masks to hospitals in the Northeast U.S., securing the products from a Chinese factory recommended by its binding manufacturer in that country. MGA is sourcing masks from China and using its distribution network to get them to hospitals.
- Providing free access to content to help kids pass their time in isolation productively. Sesame Workshop is making available over 110 Sesame Street e-books for free across platforms to help kids stay occupied. Amazon Prime did the same for its kids’ and family original TV content, as well as some commissioned and licensed series. Hasbro created a global platform called Bring Home the Fun, with content meant to inspire family activities and playtime, and Mattel introduced a similar initiative, Mattel Playroom. Harry Potter at Home is a free online hub of activities, videos, quizzes, and more. And Scholastic made a variety of online courses, of the sort it usually provides with subscription, available free to all families.
- Developing virus-specific educational content. Nickelodeon implemented #KidsTogether, a multiplatform initiative in which its characters explain to viewers how to stay healthy. Cartoon Network has created PSA video shorts starring a number of its characters, focusing on good hygiene, available both online and on-screen. Planeta Junior introduced a #StayatHome campaign, featuring the Gormiti and Pucca properties, to raise awareness of COVID-19 among children. Sesame Workshop launched a Caring for Each Other platform featuring resources for parents on how to manage their kids’ anxiety and stay healthy, along with kids’ content on how to wash their hands and cough and sneeze properly. (The campaign also led to a capsule collection with Champion.) Most of these initiatives enhance the message-based content with leisure-time activities similar to those mentioned in the bullet above.
- Making donations of existing inventory or funds. Amazon is donating N95 masks and other medical supplies, formerly sold through its site, exclusively to hospitals, first responders, and government agencies. Radians, the Stanley brand’s licensee for personal and worker protective equipment, donated N95 masks to hospitals in two Tennessee cities. Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Kering, and Prada are among the fashion marketers that have made big monetary donations to be used for research, hospital facilities, and other purposes. ViacomCBS set up a $100 million coronavirus relief fund.
- Raising money. The NFL is turning its 2020 Draft, now a virtual event, into a three-day fundraiser for six NFL Foundation-selected charities involved in combatting the spread of the virus. Singer Harry Styles is one of several celebrities to make an effort to help, in his case by raising funds through the sale of a t-shirt with a self-distancing message. Ten percent of proceeds from apparel brand CLOAK’s collaboration with Five Nights at Freddy’s will be donated to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO.
These examples are just a sampling of the many initiatives that are ongoing, with more announced every day. It should be noted that, while such programs offer secondary marketing benefits in terms of awareness and image, they need to be authentic to the company and have the potential to make a real difference. In a situation such as the coronavirus, where human life and livelihoods are at risk, it is easy to cross the line into being perceived as too crass or too commercial.