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Luckily, for anyone whose ‘Nasty Woman’ t-shirt needs a wash, a face-off between US senators Elizabeth Warren and Mitch McConnell has created a new meme. And the catchphrase that it centres on – ‘Nevertheless, She Persisted’ – has made its way offline and onto t-shirts, including one from Reebok. At a time when social media means public opinion has never felt more present, brands are expected to pick a side, and fast. We explore the insights behind Reebok’s foray into politically-charged real-time marketing.

In February 2017, senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced and excluded from a debate by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell after trying to read a letter by Coretta Scott King. “She was warned,” McConnell later explained. “She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Both the action and the words struck a chord online, and immediately became a meme. And Reebok’s ‘Nevertheless, She Persisted’ t-shirt, which was made available to preorder for $20 less than a week after the incident, has already sold out online.

The t-shirts have already sold out online The t-shirts have already sold out online
Reebok (2017) ©

The shirt is one of over 1,000 pieces of merchandise created with the co-opted quote, and snapped up by people who are increasingly thirsty to make their values visible – both online and off. Most were user-designed garments and accessories put on sale through platforms like Redbubble, but Reebok is an example of a mainstream brand wearing its politics very plainly on its sleeve. Not only does the garment bear the catchphrase, but all proceeds from sales went to the Women’s March.

There's a fine line to walk for brands engaging with US politics, especially as the polarised landscape means pleasing some people will inevitably alienate others. But by turning around the design so quickly, Reebok has demonstrated its political awareness and understanding of how politics is consumed via popular culture and proliferates on social media. At a time when the President of America is communicating with supporters (and haters) on Twitter and the far right elevated Pepe the Frog from meme star to political mascot, brands that have something political to say will be forced to do so in real-time.


Katy Young is a behavioural analyst at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. She has a degree in American Studies and Film and an MA in Journalism. Her interests include wild swimming, thinking of podcast ideas and singing in an all-female choir.


27 Feb 17
2 min read

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