Tabloid fuss as The North Face partners with a drag queen – but do the public actually care?
June 19th, 2023, Stephan Shakespeare

Tabloid fuss as The North Face partners with a drag queen – but do the public actually care?

The North Face came under fire recently from news outlets including The Daily Express, Mail Online and The Sun for partnering with the drag queen Pattie Gonia for the second year of its “Summer of Pride” campaign. The coverage has drawn comparisons to the backlash similar faced by Bud Light in the US after it partnered with trans Tiktok influencer Dylan Mulvaney earlier this year.

But data from YouGov BrandIndex UK suggests that the public aren’t particularly bothered by it. Between 23 May 2023 – when the ad launched on Instagram – and 10 June 2023, Buzz scores for The North Face (which measure whether consumers have heard anything positive or negative about a brand) saw a slight dip from 5.7 to 5.4 (-0.3). But Impression scores, which measure overall sentiment, went from 34.5 to 38.5 (+4.0) over the same period. These measures did hit a low of 28.3 on 5 June, but the brand rapidly made up the losses and now stand higher than that any point over this period.

Similarly, Quality scores increased four points – from 40.5 to 44.5 – while customer satisfaction scores saw similar gains, rising from 17.7 to 22.0 (+4.3). Reputation scores, which track whether consumers would be proud or embarrassed to work for a particular brand, went from 29.3 to 30.7 (+1.4) – reaching a nadir of 25.6 on 6 June, but again recovering swiftly.

The Mulvaney controversy does appear to have impacted sentiment towards Bud Light in the UK: between 1 April (when the ad was launched) and 10 June, Impression has deteriorated from 0.6 to -4.6 (-5), while Reputation scores have fallen from 1.7 to -4.1 (-5.8). But despite warnings from some quarters, The North Face’s campaign with Pattie Gonia has not yet become Bud Light 2.0. The brand has struck a bullish tone in its response to the furore: it has not ended the campaign nor apologised – and it does not appear to have suffered in terms of public perceptions either.