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


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.


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

Forbes: The Opportunities And Challenges Of Putting A Brand’s Mentality Into Action


Forbes: The Opportunities And Challenges Of Putting
A Brand’s Mentality Into Action

August 23, 2021

By Greg Garunov, EVP Business Development

In my previous article, I talked about the importance of a brand knowing its mindset — its unique mentality. This article explores the opportunities and challenges of codifying and putting it into action so that brands can respond to events in real time.

When Narratives Change in an Instant

All marketers want their messages to appear alongside content that’s relevant to what their brand stands for, but with the speed of today’s news cycle, that’s easier said than done.

Here’s an example: On February 23, Tiger Woods crashed his Genesis GV80 SUV. According to the police, he was “driving in an unsafe manner.” This wasn’t Woods’ first highly public car accident.

Then, on March 10, something very interesting happened: YouTuber and car enthusiast Elliot Alvis posted a video detailing how the many safety features of the Genesis GV80 saved Tiger Woods’ life. (Elliot Alvis openly acknowledges a relationship with Genesis.)

With that single upload, the story took a sudden, viral turn, doing more to promote the SUV’s safety features than a $5 million Super Bowl spot ever could. Consumers all over the world were suddenly talking about the remarkable ways in which Genesis protects drivers and passengers from harm.

YouTube video

Now, if you’re the brand manager for, say, the Subaru Outback or the Volvo V90, this story just became incredibly important, and you probably want to insert messages about your brand’s safety features in the conversation ASAP.

Here’s the upshot: We all know that brands tend to be naturally risk-averse, but sometimes bad news stories morph into golden opportunities. Stories are multi-layered narratives that can twist and turn. Tactics you once relied on (e.g., avoiding car crash stories if you’re an auto brand) can work against you if the narrative becomes core to your brand.

A Lack of Agility Kills the Moment

For the past 20 years, behavioral targeting and programmatic ad tech were the marketer’s primary tools for message alignment, but to respond to the Tiger Woods story, Subaru or Volvo would first need to realize that the story’s twist is relevant to its brand.

Sometimes bad news stories morph into golden opportunities

This begs the question: Is the brand manager even likely to see Alvis’s video until it percolates into the mainstream media? Possibly, but not probably, since the tools the brand manager uses — Google Alerts or some other keyword/regular expression monitoring tool — may not even be set to pick up stories or content related to Genesis.

Second, the competitive brand would need to notify its media execution team that this story has turned into an opportunity. Once notified, they would need to monitor and respond to the story in an automated fashion since this story twist will probably last only a couple of days. They’d likely create a set of keywords to target and then feed the revised strategy into their demand-side platform (DSP) or other platforms’ algorithms. That’s precious time lost.

And how will the media team even know who to target? In all likelihood, they’d build a proxy for consumers who are in the market for a car and are concerned with automobile safety. But is that even the right audience at that moment in time?

Many would say that the content people are consuming is a better real-time indicator of where their psyches are, and I agree with them. It’s critical to craft ad-placement decisions around consumers’ psyches because it’s the only way to really capture them in the right moments with the right message (ironically, all the promises that have been made over the years but never really came to pass).

Sometimes, content signals are just better suited to deliver on that promise than behavioral signals, as the Tiger Woods example shows. Modern content signals, when activated against strategic thought and speed, can deliver on this promise today in a significantly more effective way compared to the behavioral signals of old.

Data Science Delivers on a Brand’s Mentality

Can the industry get to the point where a marketer will know when a piece of content, somewhere in the universe, was posted that aligns with a brand’s messaging? To do this, we need to move beyond keyword detection and flag content based on a deeper level of context.

Fortunately, data science has vastly improved in its ability to read content signals. In the past, there was very little nuance to content data signals because all focus was on behavioral signs. But that’s changing. Today, data scientists have the ability to navigate content at a granular level, which makes it a much more effective tool for targeting than it was in the past.

Data science

To see how, let’s go back to the Subaru/Volvo predicament: What if the company had some kind of mechanism that told it instantly that Elliot Alvi had uploaded his video on the car that saved Tiger Woods’ life? Getting that information in real time would have tipped off the brand manager that the narrative around the accident had changed in an important way.

Getting data on content-origination points is only half the challenge. The other half is understanding a brand’s mentality — a filter that recognizes when a narrative changes to become a golden opportunity and helps execute the right message.

It’s Hard, but the Rewards Are Worth It

Getting a brand’s mentality right involves being sensitive to societal, psychological and anthropological thinking. It means translating business and marketing objectives and inputs in a way that aligns with how people actually think in the real world, not inside a marketing bubble.

At times, those inputs (story of a car crash) and outputs (we want to be part of this story) are off-kilter, and brands must learn to recognize that narratives change, quickly morphing between opportunities and challenges. This is how a brand’s mentality builds on brand suitability and brand safety, ensuring they go further and enabling them to respond in real time to fluid situations.

As you can imagine, that requires a lot of sophisticated analytics driving automation, which I’ll tackle in my next article.


See the original article on Forbes here.


So are we!

On a mission: Sightly’s United Outcomes joins forces with The Boyd Initiative to create mentoring and internship opportunities


On a mission: Sightly’s United Outcomes joins forces with The Boyd Initiative to create mentoring and internship opportunities

April 27, 2021

The Boyd Initiative Logo

When the mass protests of last spring and summer drew sharp attention to the issues of social injustice and inequality in our nation, the Sightly team felt it was important to commit formally and long-term to addressing them through ways in which we could make a meaningful impact in our industry and local communities.

The result was a new company program called United Outcomes. 

The purpose of the program is to uplift our community by creating opportunities for under-represented groups through youth education and engagement. We are also doing more to strengthen our diversity and inclusivity through our recruiting and retention practices. Our desired outcome is to help dismantle systemic racism through significant and long-term commitment.

In its initial research, United Outcomes identified an opportunity with The Boyd Initiative, a New York-based organization focused on bridging the gap between Black college students and the advertising and media industry. The Boyd Initiative is led by former Google and DataXu executive, Steven Golus, who is also an advisor to Sightly.

The Initiative helps students learn the fundamentals of media and advertising, and connect with influential employees at some of the top media companies in the world. 

“The Boyd Initiative is happy to partner with the Sightly team,” says Golus. “We are aligned with Sightly’s long-term mission to increase diversity in adtech and to make the industry more inclusive. Sightly has backed this commitment by connecting with and hiring Boyd Initiative participants. We look forward to working more closely with them in the future.”

Last September, Sightly sponsored a session where several employees talked to students about the types of roles and career paths in a marketing and media technology company like ours. That led most recently to hiring our first intern through the program for our product marketing team. Narklie Gervil is a junior from Cornell University, majoring in communication and double-minoring in business and information science.

The Boyd Initiative alumni

“I chose Sightly because the Brand Mentality mindset inspires me,” Gervil explained. “I wanted to work for a company that listens to the brand’s needs and goals, and helps them grow with that intention in mind. Furthermore, I want to have an impact at any company I work for, and I feel my internship role at Sightly will be important and valued.” Narklie’s overall goal is to gain skills and insight that she can apply to future career roles.

For our part, we will continue to create mentoring and internship opportunities for students through The Boyd Initiative and other like-minded organizations in alignment with our ongoing mission to help under-represented groups through youth education and engagement.


So are we!

How Kobe Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” Inspired Game-Changing Marketing Technology


How Kobe Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” Inspired Game-Changing Marketing Technology

April 4, 2021

At 9:45 a.m. on January 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people crashed near Los Angeles, killing all on board. Millions of fans around the world were stunned by the news, including Sightly’s CRO and GM, Adam Katz, who had grown up watching Bryant’s entire career from beginning to end. 

During the days following the tragedy, Katz was struck by the outpouring of positive sentiment for Bryant. Here was a player who at one point early in his career was considered toxic by most brand sponsors. Now, many years later upon his death, he was being widely revered and remembered for how he’d reformed himself with a mindset he’d adopted and called the ‘Mamba Mentality.’

The perfect marketing and media storm

Fast-forward a couple months to the sudden onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic—quarantines, lockdowns, panic reactions, etc. Brands struggled to pivot, especially those with money locked into upfront agreements.

Fast-forward a couple more months to the BLM protests and marches across the country. Brands again witnessed the need for nimble messaging and media placement in the face of dynamically shifting sentiment.

While making continuous adjustments to keep customers’ brands safe and suitable in their digital media campaigns, the Sightly team noted an explosion in the amount and pace of news.

Every day, every hour, even every moment, there was something new happening digitally, socially, culturally that needed responding to on behalf of each agency and brand customer.

Most of the events and viral trends also had become more complex and nuanced as they ebbed and flowed. Reactions to them evolved over a matter of hours or days, sometimes changing focus and sentiment.

No wonder a survey conducted in May showed that brand CMOs in the US felt their biggest challenge going forward was ‘understanding consumer behavior changes,’ and number three was ‘aligning with new/changing customer sentiment.’1

Brand CMOs challenged by change

Polarizing moment leads to aha moment

An eye-popping moment occurred when the CEO of a client‘s competitor came out backing one of the political parties. The strong reaction in the market to this CEO’s statements suddenly highlighted how polarizing politics and cultural moments like these had become. Sightly was able to leverage the controversy for its customer—but the opportunity went away as quickly as it had arisen.

And this is where Kobe came back into play…

Photo by Alexandra Walt - Kobe Bryant and Mamba Mentality

“I went back to his ‘mentality’ concept and I realized that every brand would react differently to all these moments based on their mindsets,” Katz explained. 

It became obvious that brands needed a wider lens—one that could help them define what was truly suitable and safe, yes—but also one that could identify the opportunities.

Sightly had been developing products that incorporated industry brand safety standards from GARM, IAB, the 4As, etc. “Based on what was happening, we felt we wanted to expand on that and create a platform that gave brands the ability to put their own opinions in market as they see fit, to respond with speed to scenarios the way they feel,” Katz added. “We call it Brand Mentality™.”

Kobe Bryant’s mentality came from the Black Mamba persona he adopted, named after a deadly snake assassin in a Quentin Tarantino film.2 Over time, his Mamba Mentality grew to signify the total focus and dedication to his craft, a mindset that drove him to become one of the greatest and most admired players in the history of the game.

How Mamba Mentality informs Brand Mentality™

In his 2018 book, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play, Bryant wrote:

“The mindset isn’t about seeking a result—it’s more about the process of getting to that result. It’s about the journey and the approach. It’s a way of life. I do think that it’s important, in all endeavors, to have that mentality.”

In another section of the book, he added this:

“Keep it real. When I was young, my mindset was image, image, image. As I became more experienced I realized: No matter what, people are going to like you or not like you. So be authentic, and let them like you for who you actually are.”3

“What you see from Kobe is the excellence in the details, and continuous refinement,” observed Albert Thompson, Managing Director of Digital at Walton Issacson. “The whole notion of Brand Mentality is it changes as the story changes. And that is very much how the human mind works. Nothing lives on absolute terms anymore. It’s in and out and then moves to a new narrative or just goes away all together.”

Defining its Brand Mentality helps a brand establish its unique mindset and approach in market. It humanizes a brand so it can move with speed to drive outcomes and respond in real time to events, threats and opportunities that arise moment to moment. 

Listen to the full discussion of Brand Mentality in this recent episode of eMarketer’s popular Behind the Numbers podcast.


  1. Biggest Challenge for CMOs? Understanding Consumer Behavior Changes
  2. How Kobe Bryant’s ‘Mamba Mentality’ changed the NBA, by James Herbert, Jan 29, 2020
  3. The Mamba Mentality—How I Play, by Kobe Bryant, text ©2018 Kobe, Inc.

Brands and Agencies Achieve True Future-Forward Marketing With Sightly’s New Brand Mentality™ Platform


Brands and Agencies Achieve True Future-Forward Marketing With Sightly’s New Brand Mentality™ Platform

March 5, 2021

First-of-Its-Kind Solution Anticipates Threats and Opportunities and Responds With Speed at Scale

Brand mentality and the future-forward marketing revolution

NEW YORK, Mar. 5, 2021 /PRNewswire/ – Sightly, a leading marketing and media technology company, today announced the launch of its Brand Mentality™ platform, which combines emotional and cultural intelligence to empower brands and agencies to anticipate threats and opportunities and respond moment-by-moment in market at speed and scale across multiple publishers and contexts.

“We’ve been dealing with brand suitability and safety for years now,” said Sightly Chief Revenue Officer and General Manager, Adam Katz. “And with everything going on in the world today, we realized that you have to establish a

mentality before you can truly deal with suitability and safety. There are too many gray areas. You have to know how you want to act in market before you can determine what is suitable and safe. Then you can move with speed to drive outcomes and respond to events that are happening in real time.”

Because each mentality is unique, one brand’s risk is often another brand’s opportunity. Brand Mentality™ is built to transcend the typical one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, it responds dynamically to events and trends for each unique client, nimbly scaling responses across all appropriate digital publishers, networks and channels.

By helping a brand define its unique mentality, Sightly is able to identify emerging opportunities as well as threats from the constant barrage of news, reactions, viral events and trends—and then inject the brand’s true opinions across media and marketing channels. Massive amounts of data gathered from social, traditional and popular media provide an unparalleled depth of cultural and emotional intelligence.

“You can’t overlook the importance of speed now that virality has become a major factor,” said Marissa Price, SVP of Client Services at Sightly. “In my experience working with many brands over the years at both media agencies and solutions providers, trending topics have never gained traction as quickly as they do now. Opportunities come and go in a matter of days. With Brand Mentality™, we can help brands jump into cultural moments when it’s right, and gracefully sidestep them when it’s not.”

social listening

The accelerated pace of change has seriously compressed marketing calendars. eMarketer reported late last year that many U.S. agencies and brand marketers had cut the media planning time in half from pre-pandemic levels. One Sightly customer, a major CPG company, echoed this sentiment saying, “Brand Mentality™ has opened our eyes to the reality of media planning today. We need to prepare for all the crazy things happening in the world.”

“From the beginning, Sightly has innovated to accommodate customer needs,” said Ralph Mack, CEO. “It’s a credit to our team that we recognized the extraordinary problems affecting marketers in the past year, seized the opportunity and innovated a first-of-its-kind, next-generation platform. That’s the Sightly way. It’s a game-changing solution and our customers couldn’t be more thrilled.”

For more information on Sightly’s Brand Mentality™ platform, listen to our recent discussion on eMarketer’s popular “Behind the Numbers” podcast, Brand Mentality™ and the future-forward marketing revolution.


So are we!