Beer maker Anheuser-Busch and basketball team Cleveland Cavaliers have found themselves sharply criticized for what many are calling tone-deaf advertising alluding to sexual assault and domestic violence.
The Cavaliers showed a promotional video on Wednesday during a game against the Chicago Bulls depicting a man throwing his girlfriend to the ground once it's revealed she is a Bulls Fan.
“When it’s playoff basketball time, you have to be all in," a voice-over says. "So don’t make the same mistake she made.”
That came a week after Anheuser-Busch sparked a social media storm for a controversial label on Bud Light bottles calling it "the perfect beer for removing 'No' from your vocabulary for the night." A tweet on St. Patrick's Day also suggested that customers can "pinch people who aren't #UpForWhatever."
People rushed online to decry both ads, with many calling them tasteless and offensive.
"Hey Bud Light, Does #UpForWhatever Include Date Rape?" Chrystal Rose wrote on Twitter.
"Cleveland Cavaliers think sports fandom is justification for domestic violence," tweeted Navin Dore.
Advertising experts say the gaffes are especially cringe-worthy given the recent national dialogue over campus rape in America and a rash of domestic violence cases in pro sports that have made front-page news.
"Organizations are human and sometimes make mistakes," said Miro Copic, a marketing professor at San Diego State University. "Maybe it was a last-minute ad from someone in the marketing department who thought it was humorous without thinking through the repercussions."
Social media and a 24/7 news cycle mean marketing departments are often given more freedom than in decades past to run with an idea, Copic said. But that can mean more mistakes. And sometimes, he said, advertisers know a theme could be judged distasteful but go with it anyways.
"Some marketers might say, 'If this is a fine line as opposed to something flagrant, better to put it up, get a reaction, and be contrite later," Copic said. "The goal is to be more provocative these days."
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