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Business and Politics: Usually Bad Bedfellows

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Tuesday, 02 Jan 2018 02:12 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Injecting politics into business is one way to lose business.

Imagine an enterprising restaurateur opens up a fine dining establishment in the heart of a town with a large base of potential customers with divergent political beliefs, mimicking America’s population.

So far so good. But then, what if they hooked a sign out front reading “Republicans Not Served Here”?

Most people with at least a modicum of business sense would shake their heads. Why turn off and away half of your potential patrons? After all, alienating and insulting customers is generally not a successful marketing model.

And yet this is exactly the modus operandi for large parts of this nation’s entertainment industry.

Hollywood is riddled with entertainers who have spiked their brands with over-the-top activism. The results may be satisfying to the half of the country that thrills to snarky attacks on the object of that actress or actor’s ire, usually whatever Republican happens to be sitting in the Oval Office at the time. The other 50 percent, however, are likely to be offended.

The list of performer-turned-protestors political activists who have damaged their own brand with over the top activism is long: Meryl Streep, Mila Kunis, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Katy Perry, Cher, Alyssa Milano, Sarah Silverman, Melissa Joan Hart, Judd Apatow, Christina Applegate, Mickey Rourke, Rose McGowan, Lena Dunham, Kathy Griffin and plenty more left unnamed.

Jennifer Lawrence was on the verge of assuming the mantle of America’s Sweetheart from Sandra Bullock.

That was until she started blaming the wage gap on men (instead of liberal Hollywood execs) and insulting Christians. This was enough to sink the final episode of the successful franchise The Hunger Games. Then came trashing President Trump and conservatives. Four failed movies later, she has wisely announced that she’s taking a break from acting, probably hoping for fading memories of all the ticket purchasers she’s alienated.

And then there’s the NFL, formerly a public space free from politics. Since Colin Kaepernick’s first kneeling protest of racism during the National Anthem, the NFL has quickly become one of the most divisive brands in America. Ratings have tanked (while the protest-free NBA’s rating are up), stadium seats remain empty, and merchandise sales are down. The networks could lose more than $200 million in ad revenue this year.

Even ESPN has managed to give itself a self-inflicted wound. In October, Jemele Hill tweeted that Trump was a white supremacist and kept her job. Mike Ditka and Curt Shilling, on the other hand, were shown the door after conservative tweets of their own. The double standard has likely alienated over half of ESPN’s viewers in the process.

Since then, ESPN has lost 1.2 million subscribers. Which ESPN channels did the losses come from? ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Networks are the least political of ESPN brands and have held their own. But ESPN and ESPN2 hosts politically driven programs like First Take and His & Hers; their subscriptions have taken a nosedive.

Politics and business can mix, if the market for the business if political. Fox News Channel and MSNBC are a few examples.

And of course, no one is arguing that entertainers, athletes, and broadcasters should keep their opinions to themselves.

But if their brand’s success is appealing to the general population, they should expect that the customers that they alienate and insult can and will express their opinions with their wallets. And in a nation nearly evenly divided between left and right, that’s a lot of money.

Ed Moy served as the 38th Director of the United States Mint from 2006-2011. Moy advises Valaurum, which makes the smallest precise verifiable unit of gold available on the world market and AID:Tech, a provider of blockchain technology to deliver entitlements, relief, and aid more efficiently, transparently, and accountability.

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Politics and business can mix, if the market for the business if political. Fox News Channel and MSNBC are a few examples.
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Tuesday, 02 Jan 2018 02:12 PM
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