How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sarah Palin Wearin’ Your Product?

palin_coverMarketers’ jobs aren’t easy. They need to politely, but aggressively, get the word out about their products, and then get those products into as many pairs of hands as possible. And sometimes that works out a little too well, or in unexpected ways. A good case in point graces the cover of Newsweek this week. Sarah Palin might think that shot of her, taken for a Runner’s World profile, is turned into a sexist statement when in the context of a news magazine. The folks over at Icebreaker, manufacturer of that Icebreaker GT base-layer she’s sporting, no doubt find it perplexing.

“Not only can former Governor Palin see Russia, but apparently she can see New Zealand too,” wrote Lee Weinstein, who handles communications for Icebreaker, in a letter to its list of media contacts this morning. A Kiwi outdoor clothing manufacturer, Icebreaker strives to maintain a sustainable supply chain and responsibly and ethically source the merino wool that makes its garments so fabulous (I say that based on the Icebreaker garments I own, and covet).

In some ways, Palin is a perfect accidental pitch woman for Icebreaker—she’s an avid outdoorswoman and she loves to run, even during Alaskan winters and therefore needs warm, moisture-wicking and odor-resistant clothing. But it’s all the other ways in which she’s the worst imaginable person to be seen in Icebreaker—the small matter of her entire political career and, oh, I don’t know, her support of aerial wolf gunning, I guess—that makes the magazine cover interesting, from a marketing perspective.

So what’s a savvy marketer of a sustainable brand to do? How does a brand do damage control while also not letting major exposure pass it by, unexploited?

Icebreaker’s take was to canvas its media contacts with a letter that amounted to “Hey, look at this! Funny, huh?” And then Weinstein took the opportunity to promote Icebreaker’s natural fibers, via a YouTube how-to video for turning a t-shirt made not with merino but with petroleum into a reusable bag—part of “Icebreaker Bags Synthetics” campaign.

Oh, and he mentioned that the running top Palin dons in that shot is available in a range of different colors and retails for $99.99.

So what do you think? Did Icebreaker take the right path in highlighting the Newsweek cover? Given the number of media outlets that covered it–us, GearJunkie, Wend, the list goes on–maybe that’s an obvious yes. But should it have done nothing? More? Share your take in the comments section.

Freelance writer Mary Catherine O'Connor finds that a growing number of companies are proving the ways that they can make good financially, socially and environmentally (as the triple bottom line theory suggests).With that in mind, she contributes to Triple Pundit, as well as to Earth2Tech and other pubs focused on sustainability. She also writes The Good Route, an Outside Magazine blog that addresses the intersection of sustainability and the active/outdoor life.To find out more, or to reach her, go to www.mcoconnor.com.