Celebrities and brands are driving voter advocacy

Local organizations, activists and politicians played key roles in turning out the vote, but new trends emerged that proved especially effective, says Sequoia Baker.

LeBron James wears a VOTE shirt during warm-up prior to the start of Game Five of the 2020 NBA Finals (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
LeBron James wears a VOTE shirt during warm-up prior to the start of Game Five of the 2020 NBA Finals (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

In this election, the convergence of the Black Lives Matter protests, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic instability played a cumulative role in producing record-breaking voter turnout. However, a few notable digital trends also emerged that proved especially effective at building momentum among Gen Z, Black and traditionally disengaged voters in key states. Let's take a deeper look:

Celebrities tap into grassroots advocacy to drive voter engagement

Celebrities took unprecedented steps to drive voter engagement this election season. While the overwhelming majority of political advocacy featuring celebrities includes one-off activations, more artists and athletes demonstrated a vested interest in political advocacy.

LeBron James' More Than A Vote organization, designed to support Black voters, is a stand-out example. The group rolled out culturally-relevant advocacy campaigns and collaborated with organizers in key states, showing that celebrities aren't afraid to borrow from PR playbooks on grassroots advocacy and build their own coalitions.

These efforts proved to be incredibly effective at reaching young, Black and traditionally disengaged voters in majority-minority cities, ultimately leading to democratic wins in swing states.

Brands move beyond statements and charity to turn out the vote

Brands and corporations took bold, unprecedented stands to show their support for Black Lives Matter this year. This momentum continued throughout the election season with many brands rolling out initiatives to increase voter turnout among Black or historically disadvantaged communities.

Lyft's partnership with celebrity-powered nonprofit When We All Vote is just one example. The company offered free and discounted rides to voters who have trouble getting to the polls. This partnership gives us a preview of what sustained advocacy engagement may look like for brands serious about aligning with progressive social justice causes.

Social media platforms find their voice and take bold steps forward

Finally, we can't talk about voter advocacy without highlighting the shifts made by Facebook in the final weeks leading up to the election. The tech giant rolled out an in-platform voter information center designed to drive voter engagement and combat misinformation.

An ongoing ban on political ads across Facebook and Instagram was also enacted in the seven days leading up to the election. While these changes seem sudden, considering long standing ethical conversations and hearings, they may give us a glimpse into how the tech giant is planning to evolve advertising policies and remedy ethical concerns.

Any long-term changes will shift how organizations that rely on social media advertising for advocacy efforts will operate.

While the election is over (sort of), the trends that emerged over the past few months are sure to change political and issue advocacy moving forward. The way brands, corporations and celebrities worked to drive voter engagement showcases evolution and innovation in PR and digital advocacy.

Time will tell if current efforts will be sustained but given the tight race, political climate and continuously evolving digital landscape— we seem to be entering a new era of voter advocacy.

Sequoia Baker is a digital strategy supervisor at Accenture Interactive.

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