Last week, the Jay-Z-co-founded clothing line, Rocawear, unveiled a new ad campaign featuring Nicole Paultre-Bell, the former fiance of Sean Bell, who was gunned down in a hail of police bullets outside of a nightclub in Queens, NY.
The officers involved in the shooting were indicted and have opted to waive a jury and be tried before a judge.
Not surprisingly, police brass cried fowl over the ad, saying it illustrates why the officers waived a jury trial, and that the ad assumes the officers' guilt. The text that appears beside Bell's picture states, "We are going to be here to the end, till justice is served."
The tagline is obviously designated to create maximum exposure. Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, told the New York Post. "This was a planned publicity stunt..."
Rocawear is the type of street-savvy clothing that can take such a brazen risk. This type of renegade brand feels like it isn't staying true to the message if it's not riling critics.
The clothing line's target demographic ate the ad up, writing on blogs with exclamation marks and capital letters of defiance. The brand left the controversy to the ad, wisely speaking carefully to the media.
"Nicole, she really embodies the overall spirit of [how hip-hop was born]. She's someone who's suffered a great loss. When that happens, you want to curl up in a ball and die," Jameel Spencer, CMO for Rocawear, told the Post, adding that the tag line is about overcoming adversity.
It was a coup all around: The Rocawear brand maintained its rebel status, while its executives stayed on target with the right message to the business audience.
PR Play rating:
3. On the right track