The Cleveland Cavaliers sparked controversy last night with an in-game parody video, intended to be funny, but which came off as tone-deaf to the growing concerns about domestic violence.
In the “All In” playoff promotion, meant to spoof a Dirty Dancing-themed health insurance commercial, a male Cavaliers fan and his apparent girlfriend start imitating the movie’s “Time of My Life” scene. But when it’s revealed that she’s wearing a Chicago Bulls shirt, he throws her across the room rather than lifting her up. The voiceover then says “Don’t make the same mistake she made”, and video cuts to the couple sitting together, with the woman now in a Cavs shirt.
Even as a parody, the Cavs’ marketing and communications team should never have approved such a video. Doing so when the NFL has been under sustained fire over domestic violence seems like a huge misstep, and it is hard to imagine just what this franchise was thinking.
All NBA teams (and sports organization in general) have to be on guard and in tune to the day’s latest news stories. They must place those sensitivities above the desire to be catchy. This is especially true for the team led by LeBron James, who is widely regarded as the best basketball player of his generation.
On the flipside, the Cavaliers did move quite quickly Thursday night to issue a strong apology for their actions. In this day and age, when the media moves at hyper speed, companies and organizations must be prepared to do the same. The Cavaliers seem to realize that.
“We ran a 1-minute in-arena video that was intended to be a humorous spoof on a popular commercial centered on a song and dance from the classic movie ‘Dirty Dancing’. While the video was not intended to be offensive, it was a mistake to include content that made light of domestic violence.
“Domestic violence is a very serious matter and has no place in a parody video that plays in an entertainment venue. We sincerely apologize to those who have been affected by domestic violence for the obvious negative feelings caused by being exposed to this insensitive video.”
But given the ability for sensational stories to move around the world rapidly, the best possible antidote is to avoid putting yourself in a position to be the target of scorn in the first place. Crisis management is important, and it is essential when the circumstances demand it. However, if organizations are smart and strategic in their communications, then they can often avoid the crisis entirely.