Clorox sustainability chief on cleaning up with sports partnerships
Clorox put its product into action throughout Covid. Its partnerships with sports leagues, as well as other real-life activations, have proved far more powerful than any 30-second TV. Its sustainability chief Ed Huber explains how and why the team continues to team with the NBA, WNBA and others.
Clorox found solutions amid the many challenges Covid-19 posed
It’s true that genuine connections go beyond the surface. All good relationships start with a mutual interest in making a deep, positive impact in someone else’s life. Like their disinfecting wipes, Clorox’s partnerships go beyond the surface. With partnerships spanning multiple leagues, teams and arenas, they have resonated with fans during one of the most harrowing, stressful and uncertain time periods in our lives. The brand has been able to make an impact by going deeper than merely capitalizing on an opportunity.
“As Covid-19 wore on, we found there was genuine interest among consumers that leaned into who we were,” says Ed Huber, vice-president and general manager of strategic growth and chief sustainability officer at The Clorox Company. “We had to figure out how to position and evolve our brand so that we can continue to grow the trust we’ve built over the years.”
It’s been a journey for the company, which is no stranger to immersing itself within the consumer’s mindset. Having started in Oakland in 1913 over a century ago, the company houses some of the most recognizable brands that are leaders within their respective categories including Burt’s Bees, Hidden Valley, Brita and Glad. Yet it is its marquee brand Clorox that has pushed the company to a much deeper level.
“When the name of your company is the name of your brand, it adds a little extra pressure and raises expectations,” says Huber.
So how did Clorox strengthen their foray into the sports realm? Harken back to the NBA Bubble. Beginning in late July 2020, the isolation zone was a launching point for the brand to get involved.
“We got a call from the NBA early on in the process of building out the Bubble,” says Huber. “Those conversations really got to the heart of how we were looking to help. We held numerous conversations with league officials as we worked on the technical and product side. The number one reason at the core of our conversations was our goal to keep everyone safe and the players moving on.”
Getting inside the NBA Bubble
The NBA Bubble was a resounding success. Clorox was also instrumental in helping the WNBA return to play, providing disinfecting products to players, referees and staff within the ‘Wubble.’ The brand doubled down on their investment in the men’s and women’s game as the brand evolved in alignment with CDC recommendations. With the threat of airborne transmission imminent, Clorox deployed electrostatic sprayers that provided a deeper clean in between games.
Fast forward to the 2021 NBA and WNBA seasons and the return of fans into arenas. With an appetite to return to normalcy, the brand honed in on how they would get involved.
“Sports give us unique access to a very attractive demographic as we realized both leagues hold a younger, multicultural audience,” says Huber. “We looked at how consumers were processing everything that was going on and we came to two conclusions: people want to get on a plane and see their loved ones, and they want to get back to seeing their sports teams in person. We decided that rather than just jumping into sports, we want to own the moments and relationships that matter.”
The brand equity that Clorox built over the previous 100+ years, and galvanized over the previous one, was on full display during the start of the 2021 NBA and WNBA seasons.
As fans were looking for Clorox wipes and bleach to keep their homes safe, that feeling carried over to the arena. When you walk into arenas that Clorox has partnered with, such as the Chase Center, you are immediately greeted by Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.
“It’s something that fans find relevant and helpful,” says Huber. “It’s about leveraging their trust. People are going to forever elevate their sense of cleanliness and hygiene. Our equity gives you that trust and familiarity.”
Yet the cornerstone of Clorox’s partnerships isn’t merely about the opportunity they presented. It’s about taking a more thoughtful look on how the Clorox brand should be represented, and working with partners that represent their philosophy of helping others.
Supporting rising stars
Clorox’s partnerships have continued to cut to the core of making the game safer. The brand was a core supporter of the 2021 NBA Summer League, providing an abundance of product for Las Vegas venues. The support will be further reflected as the title partner of the Clorox NBA Rising Stars Game. It’s the first time a cleaning brand has been a title partner of this competition.
The WNBA serves as a tremendous opportunity to extend the brand’s reach into growing women’s sports. Integrations have capitalized on player personalities, showcasing their love for the brand within their personal lives. Las Vegas Aces’ point guard Chelsea Gray will be in attendance at the Clorox NBA Rising Stars Game on behalf of the brand. Gray will work with everyone from legends to current and rising stars as she offers a first-person perspective of the brand activations that will be on display.
Another relationship developed includes the Phoenix Mercury’s Skylar Diggins-Smith. Diggins-Smith was featured in a Clorox Disinfecting Wipes spot illustrating how she utilizes the brand to not miss a moment on or off the court. The rich deep partnership showcases Diggins-Smith’s amazing athletic prowess, while also emphasizing how much these products matter to her as a mom.
“Skylar’s spot is incredibly special,” says Huber. “She is a player, a mother and a community leader. It’s really a marketer’s dream to work with these bright, talented athletes. The partnership with the NBA and WNBA opens up those doors to do so.”
Much more than a 30-second ad
Clorox’s campaigns have been strategically positioned to imbed within the core of our daily activities by partnering with multiple entities, arenas and teams. The brand ran a media campaign in New York emphasizing how integrated the brand is within our daily lives.
Imagine you’re flying into Newark on United Airlines. Clorox has partnered with United to help create their United CleanPlus commitment for all passengers. Upon landing in Newark, you make your way to Enterprise to rent a car. They have also partnered with Clorox, ensuring a Clorox Disinfecting Wipe will be included in every one of their rental cars throughout the United States and Canada. With the wipe there for the taking, it allows the renter to either clean the car immediately or take the wipe with them for the rest of their journey. After securing the rental car, you make your way to Madison Square Garden. And guess what? They’re also a Clorox partner, complete with Clorox Disinfecting Wipes upon arrival.
This connectivity emphasized how Clorox is intertwined every step of the way along a fan’s journey into sports venues. And it’s not just in New York. A similar process is in place for next month’s 2022 NBA All-Star game.
“It goes back to authenticity,” says Huber. “People aren’t moved by just having a 30-second TV commercial anymore. Product integration is so important. Logo placement is nice but it’s not as important as ... physically [using and experiencing] these products.”
Relationships truly are at the heart of Clorox’s sports strategy. The brand’s portfolio spans numerous leagues, teams and venues:
NBA & WNBA (‘Official Cleaning Partner’)
NHL (‘Official Cleaning and Disinfecting Partner’)
Team and venue partners:
Atlanta: Hawks & State Farm Arena
SF: Golden State Warriors & Chase Center Arena
NYC: Knicks & Madison Square Garden
DC: Wizards, Mystics & Capital One Arena
Chicago: Bulls, Blackhawks & United Center
New York Rangers
San Francisco 49ers
Clorox’s relationships have been unique within each partnership. With the NHL, Clorox activated during the league’s 2022 Winter Classic. Fans were encouraged to ‘Beat the Sneeze’ as they showed off their best slap shot in an effort to reach a faster speed than a traveling sneeze. With the 49ers, there was already a relationship in place as The Clorox Company’s Kingsford Charcoal Brand was a partner with the team. With a fortified relationship in place, there was natural affinity among Clorox products, thus leading to that partnership.
“When you get to know the people and culture of these teams, you get to see how they click,” says Huber. “So many partnerships out there are often transactional: ‘You pay X to get Y.’ Every one of our partners is interested in the science and asking: ‘What can we do to actually help people?’”
As the Covid-19 pandemic develops, Clorox’s marketing strategy will continue to evolve. Yet it’s the relationships with partners, with fans, with people that make the deepest impact for the brand.
“I’m confident that the depth of relationships we have is very different,” says Huber. “It’s been a very rewarding time. Being a sports fan and seeing everything in action is truly special.