Co-brands are strategically advantageous partnerships which can also involve risk. For example, Papa John’s gained access to the largest television audience in the US by sponsoring the National Football League (NFL), but later blamed stagnant sales on how the NFL’s handled players’ well-publicized protests of inequitable policing. What implications did Papa John’s prioritization of sales over fairness have for NFL consumption? To answer this question, the current research tests for changes in Sunday watch party rituals (SWPR), when U.S. consumers gather to socialize while watching live NFL games. If the perception of Papa John’s marketing communications shifted from promoting pizza to politics, then according to identity economics theory, the advertisements would have distinct effects on NFL fans, depending on their racial, ethnic, and political identity and vulnerability to the social and economic effects of inequitable policing. Consumers more affected by Papa John’s position might change (increase or decrease) their participation in SWPR, which should correspond to changes in purchases of products consumed during SWPR. Multisource data—including scanner panel data, geospatial fanbases, and NFL schedules—assessed with a household-level synthetic difference-in-differences model provide causal estimates of purchase changes following the anti-equity position taken by Papa John’s. Projecting these household-level causal estimates to household and community characteristics reveal no impact on SWPR of household racial and ethnic identity, politically (mis)aligned communities, or of general diversity or political polarization on SWPR participation. Rather, higher percentages of Black neighbors result in decreased quantities of SWPR items purchased by neighboring White households. Thus, it seems that vulnerability to the outcomes of inequitable policing, and not psychographic alignment, changes SWPR participation. This novel finding is the first documentation that a co-brand’s diversity, equity, and inclusion stance can harm its partner’s performance by altering the consumption experience for that partner’s consumers, reaching beyond strategic partners to include indirect partners, such as grocery retailers that sell relevant artifacts for SWPR.
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