The NRA, social media and sponsorships: Marketing’s power and controversies


Non-Americans sometimes shake our heads at the US approach to weapons and gun control. The idea that individuals should have the constitutional right to carry weapons unimpeded by significant regulation seems downright crazy to folks like me, who lives in Canada.

Yet I respect the historical reasons for the Second Amendment and the independent freedom-loving frontier spirit behind the “free the gun owner advocates” and the (until now), the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) truly passionate and effective lobbying.

But something happened after the recent mass shooting incident when 17 teenagers were killed by a former student with an assault rifle Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

The killed students’ peers mobilized and started a social media campaign to put pressure on corporations doing business with the NRA, and they appear to have scored many successes, as large businesses of various types have decided to end their affinity/discount programs with the association.

(These association discounts are standard deals; where businesses bake in a modest discount to connect with the association’s members. In turn, the association achieves a value-added selling point by being able to claim the savings offset the membership dues costs.)

Will the loss of these discounts and relationships make a difference?

Allowing that marketing relates to branding and reputation, and generally individuals and businesses want to associate with “good” brands, this development is proving to be a powerful example of how marketing muscle can arise and be directed by youthful social media initiatives.

The developments indicate that the NRA and gun rights advocates are being pushed to the fringe; that the weight of distaste for unfettered gun rights is great enough to tip the balance in simple and easy-to-change sponsorship and affinity marketing deals.

The net cost/impact may not be so great, of course, as NRA supporters may elect to boycott the businesses which have heeded the NRA boycott, and the organization’s legitimately passionate supporters will probably embrace even closer the individuals and organizations who have not behaved like fair-weather friends.