Brands need permission to play

Brands have a long historical association with the arts and there is much to be gained from forming strategic allegiances with both high art and street culture when it comes to artistic expression.

Art is a form of personal expression at its most raw and the majority of brands have products that can be manipulated by both designers and consumers in a wide range of interactive campaigns. Not to mention the vast sponsorship and curation opportunities that this well mined, yet still evolving, sphere of branded entertainment can offer.

However, as with all creative endeavours by brands – be they musical, artistic, cinematic or fashion based – it pays to understand, empathise and, most importantly, be accepted by the creators themselves.

The fact that consumers are more open than ever to brand involvement in the arts and culture puts brands in a unique position, however this must be tempered with an understanding that this doesn’t create an entirely open market. These are still areas that need to be handled with care.

Take for example Adidas’ latest foray into the world of street art. The brand recently started work on placing a series of ads on a prominent wall central to the Warsaw graffiti scene. However, instead of seamlessly becoming part of the wider cultural space artists reacted angrily to what they saw as the brand’s mishandling of the global monument to Polish hip-hop culture. So much so that the campaign has been countered by an adisucks Facebook page to the tune of over 25,000.

Adidas has created some sterling campaigns over the years working alongside Graffiti artists, such as its subway carriage makeover project in association with Footlocker way back in 2007, its iPhone Graffiti guide app in Germany and Berlin and the work it undertook with graffiti artists in China just last year. So, hopefully its illustrious heritage in this area may offset this recent backlash.

The old adage of not being able to please all of the people all of the time applies here, but it is also worth remembering that getting ‘permission to play’ is a vital and continual part of the cultural experience for brands – no matter how long you’ve been at it and how deep your commitments run.

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