Oakley Sees Chilean Mine Rescue as Marketing Tool


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Just like in the movies, the world loves a hero moment. So when word arrived that the trapped Chilean miners would be rescued after 69 days spent in horrible conditions and struggling to survive, media outlets around the world scrambled to secure 24-hour coverage.

Given the international attention on this event, it’s not all that surprising that a brand would see it as a marketing opportunity. Enter: Oakley.

The eyewear company has made a well-reported gift of $450 Radar sunglasses for all 33 miners to wear as they are precariously (and historically) lifted from the ground. According to the Telegraph, “Medics have warned of damage to the miners’ retinas when they reach daylight after so long underground.” And guess what! The Oakley eyewear affords 100% UV protection!

Yes, in fairness, Oakley is being somewhat charitable here — but news of its eyewear donation was leaked to the media well before the actual rescue, and we’re willing to bet that leak was no accident. The worldwide media is riveted to Chile right now, offering an unprecedented amount of media attention — which means millions of eyes on the Oakleys these miners are wearing. And any positive association with this heart-warming event could certainly benefit a brand.

But could this marketing attempt backfire in Oakley’s face? Will seeing the luxury eyewear (which looks strikingly out of place in the rescue photos like the ones on Page One of today’s New York Times) on every news broadcast and paper inspire people to buy their own pair of $450 sunglasses? We think it’s somewhat doubtful – though we’re more than willing to admit it’s possible that the move will be a boon for the brand.

Still, while we admire Oakley’s boldness, we can’t help feeling uneasy with what looks to us like good old-fashioned exploitation of a tense, life-threatening event.

UPDATE: Well, hats off to the marketing department at Oakley — Darren Rovell at CNBC writes that “In worldwide television impact alone, Oakley garnered $41 million in equivalent advertising time, according to research done for CNBC from Front Row Analytics, a sponsorship evaluation firm.” Quite a return on their investment of a few dozen pairs of sunglasses!