Stagwell launches risk and reputation unit to advise brands on political minefield

19 June 2023 2 min. read

Stagwell, a global marketing and communications group, has launched a risk and reputation unit to advise brands on navigating an increasingly polarized consumer base.

As America’s culture war continues and the 2024 presidential election approaches, brands will be looking to avoid getting caught in political crosshairs from either end of the spectrum.

The most recent and high-profile casualty is Bud Light, which has faced a boycott from the right after promoting a product collaboration with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender influencer. The boycott has driven a slide in the share prices of parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev and dropped Bud Light sales by almost a quarter, according to consulting firm Bump Williams.

AB InBev is now in damage control mode, placing two executives on leave and running advertisements that prominently feature US flags and galloping horses. "We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” said Brendan Whitworth, CEO of AB InBev’s North American business, in a statement on April 14. “We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer."

Stagwell launches risk and reputation unit to advise brands on political minefield

Stagwell’s new risk and reputation unit will try to help brands avoid reputational hits, political backlash, and steep losses in sales and market capitalization. Akin to general due diligence and governance, the unit will audit all facets of brand’s public and internal perception to protect brand intangibles.

The unit brings together capabilities from several companies within Stagwell’s 70+ agency network. It includes experts from left-of-center strategic advisory SKDK, right-of-center digital-first agency Targeted Victory, financial communications firm Sloane & Company, creative market research firm The Harris Poll, and Stagwell's corporate leadership.

Together, experts in the risk and reputation unit have worked on 12 presidential races and 500+ Congressional and state-level races; raised over $2 billion for political candidates; advised 100+ Fortune 500 companies on reputation and crisis communications; and surveyed over 5 million people globally.

"Every business that wants to avoid becoming the next brand in the crosshairs needs to prevent their consumers from switching on their political brain and thinking they're casting a vote every time they go to the store," said Mark Penn, chairman and CEO, Stagwell. "Brands can lose big if they don't understand the issues and their stakeholders and stay consistent with their values. Our team goes further than typical crisis response by providing the full picture from bipartisan political insights to financial expertise and unique public opinion data."

Founded in 2015, Stagwell provides services across digital transformation, research and insights, global media and content, public affairs and advocacy, and creative. The Washington, DC-based group in 2021 completed a merger with MDC Partners and today has more than 13,000 people across 34+ countries.