It was interesting to read in the Guardian this morning of the work that Burberry are now doing with Marcus Rashford, funding youth centres the footballer attended as a young man and other associated work. Without calling into question Burberry's motives in any way, it is clear that they must regard the association with the footballer - now unquestionably a national "good guy" - as positive for their brand and image.
You can see why. Companies of all stripes and types have been variously commended or vilified during the pandemic for their response, from the very good (Leon and their work with free meals for health care workers) to the much less so (Sports Direct arguing that theirs was an essential business and so should be kept open during the first lockdown). But is there something deeper going on here than a canny piece of market positioning?
The association between business and doing good is about more than brand, or being on trend. Over the last few years a much broader conversation has been developing, about the fundamental purpose of enterprise, and it's impact on a wide range of places and people beyond just the corporate shareholders. Consumers have started to make judgements about the ethics of the businesses they buy from, and - in some cases - to change their purchasing decisions accordingly. And businesses themselves, or some of them at least, are reflecting on what it might mean to have a broader purpose than just the generation of profit.
We should welcome Burberry's initiative, however easy it might be to be cynical about it, as part of a broader process of commending businesses that seek to live out their values. We might even want to see it as a hopeful sign of "building back better", where businesses sit alongside communities and neighbourhoods, working with the "grain" of those places, to generate a better tomorrow as well as a better bottom line.
Everyone wants to be connected to Marcus Rashford these days, including Burberry, which today announced a partnership with the footballer for a series of initiatives to help disadvantaged young people.