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Mentality Matters: Brand Insights from Aaron Rodgers’ COVID Vaccine Wrangle

November 30, 2021

The story about Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers testing positive for COVID-19 played out online the past few weeks, after he returned to the football field following a mandated quarantine.

His positive COVID-19 diagnosis was first reported November 3 and instantly became controversial because Rodgers claimed back in August that he had been “immunized.”

What insights does this story and its multiple dimensions offer for brands?

To get some context, review the chronology of major moments below, as told by a representative sample of online news articles throughout the story’s continuing timeline.

COVID-19 vaccination - U.S. Secretary of Defense, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Keep in mind these articles and videos are just a handful of the thousands upon thousands of articles, opinions, social posts, videos, comments, etc. generated by this major viral moment.

Most actionable moments don’t reach this level of virality or last this long but these “big moments” are useful for gaining and sharing insights.

Like, notice how quickly this one went from news to controversy on Day 1: the story broke, and within hours, widespread opinions appeared questioning Rodgers’ veracity.

Then two days later on November 5, it took a major turn, fueled by Rodgers’ appearance on a Sirius XM show, where he responded to the criticism.

How did the biggest brand that employs him as a spokesperson respond?

At first, there was not much of a response but five days in, on November 8, following the Rodgers-less Packers’ loss to Kansas City the day before, a brand spokesperson said it encourages vaccinations but respects his right to his own personal opinion.

Opinions continued to proliferate.

The NFL fined his team and him.

The Packers activated him for the next game.

He played and beat Seattle.

State-Fram-Insurance-Office-Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The next several days saw stories that were reactionary trajectories off the main narrative:

  • Punditry and humorous commentary,
  • The NFL announced new COVID protocols ahead of Thanksgiving games, and
  • Health professionals decried the continued spread of disinformation about the vaccines and alternative treatments.

How would your brand have approached this story and all the content it has generated?

1. Does your brand routinely target content in the Sports category?

2. Does your brand routinely avoid news about COVID-19?

3. Does your brand have a strategy for avoiding misinformation?

4. If your brand competed in the insurance category, how would you approach content relating to this story?

Click this link to participate in a poll on these questions, and we’ll share the results with you via email.

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Aaron Rodgers Vaccine Story Chronology with representative content samples

November 3

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers tests positive for COVID-19, source says

Did Aaron Rodgers Lie About His COVID-19 Vaccination Status?

Opinion: Aaron Rodgers has COVID. He lied about being vaccinated, and being a team player

November 4

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers caught in his big vaccination lie

November 5

Aaron Rodgers says he’s unvaccinated, takes ivermectin and bashes ‘woke mob’

Aaron Rodgers Attacks NFL and ‘Woke Mob’ of Critics in Defending His Unvaccinated Status

Packers’ Aaron Rodgers Says He’s Taking Joe Rogan’s Advice On Treating COVID, Is Using Ivermectin

What State Farm Is Saying About Aaron Rodgers’ Endorsement Status Amid Covid Vaccine Controversy

State Farm stays quiet after Aaron Rodgers’ COVID-19 vaccine comments and MLK comparison

November 6

Packers’ Aaron Rodgers loses endorsement deal with healthcare group after Q&A regarding COVID-19 vaccine

SNL’ jabs Aaron Rodgers’ COVID-19 vaccine stance: ‘It’s my body and my COVID’

November 7

Without Aaron Rodgers, Packers and Jordan Love manage just one TD in loss to Chiefs

November 8

Breaking: State Farm Announces Decision On Aaron Rodgers

The ‘woke mob’ didn’t come for Aaron Rodgers

November 9

Aaron Rodgers’ fiancée, Shailene Woodley, slams media for ‘disparaging’ athlete amid COVID vaccine controversy

Aaron Rodgers takes ‘full responsibility’ for comments about COVID-19 vaccination status

Packers fined $300K, Aaron Rodgers, Allen Lazard fined $14K for violation of COVID protocols

November 13

Green Bay Packers activate QB Aaron Rodgers off reserve/COVID-19 list

Scientists react to Aaron Rodgers’ comments on Covid-19 vaccine and treatments

November 14

Misty-Eyed and Tired, Rodgers Wins in Return From COVID

Post-COVID, Aaron Rodgers won’t do in-person press conference, opting for Zoom instead

Aaron Rodgers’ endorsement partners are mostly silent on his COVID controversy, a sign they’re likely taking a wait-and-see approach

November 15

Aaron Rodgers Returns to Play for Packers After Testing Positive for COVID, Quarantining

Karma may still want a word with Aaron Rodgers

November 16

Punchlines about Aaron Rodgers’ vaccination controversy keep popping up

November 17

NFL chief medical officer pushes back on Aaron Rodgers’ claim that some COVID-19 protocols are ‘not based in science’

Amid rising COVID cases, NFL updates protocols ahead of Thanksgiving

‘So Disappointing;’ Stanford Doctor Chastises Aaron Rodgers For COVID Vaccine Misinformation