In the face of negative publicity for brands, how the brand owner responds goes a long way in maintaining respect and loyalty amongst consumers.

In the wake of the recent terrorist attack in Christchurch, people and organisations alike in New Zealand and across the world, are reflecting on their own values and how they can create more inclusive and tolerant environments. No stone has been unturned, and in a country passionate about rugby union, New Zealand’s Canterbury rugby franchise the ‘Crusaders’ have become a focal point of discussion.

Founded in 1996 and based in Christchurch, the Crusaders have long been a dominant force in the Super Rugby competition; having won nine titles and being the current Super Rugby champions. But the Crusaders’ name and associated logo (bearing a cross wearing sword-wielding knight), have been scrutinised due to perceived historic links to ‘The Crusades’ – a series of religious wars between Christians and Muslims in the medieval period.

News reports indicate that the crusades were specifically referenced within the terrorist’s manifesto which was published online and emailed to various people and political offices prior to the attack.

Indicating that they will consult with the local Muslim community on the possibility of a name change to ensure they “do the right thing” in the wake of the tragic events, the Crusaders’ CEO has been quick to clarify that the Crusaders’ name and brand is intended to reflect the united and “crusading spirit” of the community.

Although no decision has been made whether a name change will eventuate, the story does demonstrate how perceptions of a brand’s “appropriateness” is evolving. As the Crusaders have experienced, unforeseen factors or events could change public brand perceptions overnight.

The key to managing risks of this nature (which the Crusaders have done well), is to acknowledge and understand changes if they occur and avoid knee-jerk reactions. Although a name change is unlikely to be supported by the entire loyal fan base, the Crusaders have stood firm in their determination to consider the issue from a range of community perspectives and take necessary steps if required.

In the face of negative publicity for brands, how the brand owner responds to these issues goes a long way in maintaining respect and loyalty amongst consumers.