Naomi Osaka Chose a Taboo Path. Bobbie Walked With Her

Marketing lessons from the tennis star and new mom's partnership with the formula brand

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Bobbie, a mom-founded baby formula brand, signed four-time Grand Slam tennis champion and new mom, Naomi Osaka, to star in its first major TV campaign “Parents Push Harder.” This marks Osaka’s return to the court after giving birth to her daughter, Shai, who is now six months old.

Bobbie working with Osaka is a partnership that strengthens its brand, sets them apart from competitors and makes a greater impact on the ecosystem. And for Osaka, it’s an opportunity to use her influence to fight for all parents to get more paid time off with their babies.

Here’s what marketers need to keep in mind when aligning their brand to a social cause.

Support a cause that’s aligned to the brand’s mission

Bobbie was started by co-founder Laura Modi, who had struggled on her own feeding journey and wanted to create a trusted, organic baby formula. As a brand, Bobbie recognizes that what you feed your baby is an important part of the overall journey to care for your baby. And how much time you have to bond, feed and care for your newborn is one of the most important things parents struggle with. Because nearly 73% of Americans don’t have paid leave through work.

Bobbie

Bobbie partnered with Osaka to introduce the N.O. Support Grant. They are committed to providing 50 cash grants for 50 families to provide interim support while advocating for federal paid leave. If passed, the Family and Medical Leave Act would give 12 weeks of paid leave and job protection and guarantee a minimum monthly benefit of $580; that’s why each grant from Bobbie is $580 to match the monthly benefit. The brand says: “It’s not a solution, but it’s a start.”

Bobbie recognizes that paid leave and time to bond with your baby is integral to their brand’s mission. Marketers, make sure to understand how your brand plays a larger role in your consumer’s journey. Pick a social cause that’s aligned to what your brand wants to be known for and is core to your mission.

Choose an ambassador who can connect with your consumer

Osaka has decided to exclusively formula-feed her daughter Shai. Osaka is publicly shedding light on an issue not many speak about—the shame mothers can feel about not exclusively breastfeeding. By partnering with Osaka, Bobbie is putting the spotlight on an issue so many of their potential and current customers struggle with.

According to research from The National Library of Medicine, “Breastfeeding has become the recognized standard for good parenting, with social costs for not breastfeeding.” Mothers may feel guilty for using infant formula and experience negative feelings of self-worth. In the United States, 75% of infants start breastfeeding at birth. By three months, 67% of them will rely on formula for some part of their nutrition. Mothers returning to work after parental leave may start to use formula as well if they were breastfeeding.

While Bobbie has created an important product in the marketplace, some individuals will feel shame in using formula to feed their babies. So, the brand picked an ambassador who exemplifies that everyone has a different feeding journey.

Marketers, if you choose to partner with a brand ambassador, pick someone who truly stands for and believes in your products and the impact you have on your consumers’ lives.

Pick the right moment to announce your campaign

Osaka has been ranked number one in singles by the Women’s Tennis Association. She’s also the first Asian player to hold the top ranking in singles. She was the first woman to win successive major singles titles since Serena Williams in 2015. She is a tennis icon, a founder, an activist, and now, a mother.

And her return to the court at the Australian Open, for the first time since becoming a mom, was the perfect moment for Bobbie to announce their campaign. As Osaka says of her career, “They will say it’s a comeback. A bounce back.” In her partnership with Bobbie, she shares her journey of motherhood and how “parents push harder.”

According to Melanie Hayman, an associate professor at Central Queensland University, “the demands of pregnancy may help athletes develop mental resilience and coping strategies that can contribute to improved performance.” Hayman works with athletes and her research focuses on exercise and pregnancy and sees more athletes want to continue to compete post-pregnancy.

While Osaka didn’t advance past the first round in the Australian Open, all eyes were on her as she returned to the court. Bobbie picked the perfect time to announce the campaign: a moment when Osaka was still breastfeeding her baby and returning to work.

Marketers, remember the timing of a campaign launch matters. Don’t get distracted and try to copy competitors or jump on cultural moments that don’t make sense for your brand. Ensure your campaign launch timing makes sense for your messaging.

The Bobbie and Naomi Osaka brand partnership reminds us that great pairings can strengthen individual brands, make a greater impact on the ecosystem and destigmatize some of the biggest challenges your consumers are facing. It can also offer them better solutions that enhance the quality of their lives and their loved ones.