The chief executives of 138 companies, including several retailers and brands, are participating in a nonpartisan campaign, "Time to Vote," to make it easier for U.S. workers to vote.
The companies, which include Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap Inc., Dick's Sporting Goods, Levi's, Walmart, Patagonia, Purple mattress and others, are supporting voter participation through a variety of measures and campaigns, some with paid time off to vote and others with resources for mail-in ballots and early voting.
The effort aims to boost what the group says is one of the lowest voter participation rates (as low as 36% in the 2014 midterms) in the developed world, according to a Time to Vote press release.
This campaign allows for a range of participation on the part of the companies involved, and it's no surprise how it breaks down. Patagonia, for example, whose founder and CEO are two of the most vocal environmental activists in the business world, is reprising its 2016 election move to shutter stores, along with its Nevada distribution and customer service centers and California headquarters so all employees can vote.
Levi's is leveraging its longstanding American brand for quite a comprehensive campaign, including an ad campaign incorporating television spots featuring Aretha Franklin's song "Think," according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive.
In addition to TV, the denim brand is sending messages through digital, social, limited-edition product, non-profit partnerships and influencer and employee engagement. "Levi's is all about authentic self-expression," Jen Sey, chief marketing officer of Levi Strauss & Co., said in a statement. "And there is no purer form of self-expression than voting. It is the ultimate use of one's voice, one's freedom. And we felt it was imperative to remind Americans this fall to use that right, to not ever take it for granted."
Ride-share app Lyft, in a move that is on-brand, is providing free rides to the polls in underserved areas, among other support. And Walmart, which tends to avoid wading into most high-key political controversies, is providing voting information, including how to register, absentee guidelines and polling locations, a spokesperson told Retail Dive in an email.
The effort comes as Americans, especially those in younger generations, increasingly want to see brands taking a stand, even on contentious issues. Most customers react well to brands with political stances, especially if they align with their own beliefs, according to Sprout Social, which found that 28% will publicly praise such a brand and 44% will actually purchase more from it.
Indeed, the range of millennial interest in social justice reads like a laundry list of what some brands might think they should avoid: LGBTQ, sustainability, women's issues, free press and individual expression, according to Jane Hali, CEO of Jane Hali & Associates. "But this generation wants companies to take a stand on the national conversations," she told Retail Dive in an email regarding Nike's controversial recruitment of Colin Kaepernick.
A number of CEOs, in statements released by Time to Vote, said they believe it's the responsibility of business to correct the barriers to voting that have arisen in the U.S. "The opportunity to vote is one of our most powerful forms of expression, and a necessary part of a thriving democracy," Sonos CEO Patrick Spence said in a statement. "As employers, it is our duty to society to empower those who work for us to use their voices at the polls."