Neo-Nazis and New Balance: Using media analytics to improve crisis management

by | Nov 18, 2016 | Branding, Crisis Communications, Public Relations

New Balance finds itself in a PR nightmare this month. Immediately following the presidential election results, a spokesperson for the U.S.-based athletics company came out and made a comment that many people took issue with. Now, faced with this crisis, New Balance must consider how and where to target its crisis management efforts.

Agility PR Solutions did some digging with our Enterprise solution to analyze sentiment about New Balance and demonstrate how to use media analytics to focus and improve crisis management efforts.

New Balance’s recent PR issues began on November 9 when the company’s vice-president stated in an interview, “The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us frankly, with President-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction.” This statement of support for Donald Trump upset many.

In response to the company’s political statement, actor Jon Cryer of “Two and a Half Men” called for a  boycott of the New Balance brand. Many social media users took another approach, posting images and videos of themselves burning New Balance shoes.

But not everyone was upset by New Balance’s statement: Neo-Nazi blogger Andrew Anglin threw his (unwanted) support behind the brand. According to news sources, Anglin declared New Balance the “Official Shoes of White People”.

New Balance was quick to release a statement on Twitter attempting to squash the association:

But the damage was done. Many news sources picked up the story, and our analytics showed that the majority of articles were negative.


In a sample of U.S. online news articles from November 9 to 16, 58 per cent portrayed New Balance negatively. The Boston Globe reported that “New Balance may pay the price from anti-Trump customers who are burning their sneakers and boycotting the brand in protest.”

Not all coverage was bad, mind you, as 38 per cent of the articles actually presented the shoe company favourably. Many of these outlets commented on the company’s efforts to “distance itself from white supremacist support”. Even more favourably, one article from The Boston Globe quoted a source saying, “In the midst of its crisis, New Balance has done everything right by adamantly rejecting the unwanted endorsement.”

However, given the large amount of unfavourable coverage, New Balance clearly has some work to do in fixing its brand. But how? For companies in crisis, it can often feel impossible to know where to begin when attempting to repair the damage.

Our analysis shows that the New Balance brand may need more work in certain states than others as coverage in some regions was more unfavourable.

Analyzing news sources by state showed that only in Mississippi were sources primarily favourable toward the company. The bulk of states produced net neutral coverage (having an even number of positive or negative articles).


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Armed with this knowledge, New Balance can prioritize efforts in the states with the most negative sentiment.

Another important element in crisis management is understanding which publications are covering your brand and how influential they are. Rich Kahn, a specialist in online advertising, argues that a smaller publication may not require a response, but a negative story in a larger and more influential one needs to be addressed.

Sentiment analysis for the top U.S. publications (by circulation) shows that New Balance should focus on New York Post, that released a video with images and captions from social media users burning their New Balance sneakers, and try to have them publish a new story about New Balance’s reaction, similar to one in the Boston Globe.

chart: sentiment by top publications

When a brand finds itself in hot water – of its own making or otherwise – knowing who is saying what and in what publications helps you react faster and focus efforts on the authors and publications that can best help you repair the damage. A company’s crisis management approach hinges on having accurate and timely media monitoring and analysis. Many organizations trust Agility PR Solutions with all their media monitoring and analytics needs. Contact us to learn more.

Chantelle Brule
After receiving her Master's in Communications from Carleton University, Chantelle brought her research experience to Agility's Media Insights team as a data analyst. She's particularly good at what she does.