Brazil's 'Tropical Spring' will live on long after the storm subsides

Rafael Munhoz

When protesters took to the streets of Brazil last summer, businesses could have been forgiven for thinking it didn't concern them. With the political climate at boiling point, companies were anxious to retreat from the action and wait for the tropical storm to subside.

However, it soon became clear that brands were involved – whether they liked it or not. Fiat's 'Take to the Streets' slogan was taken up along with the placards and banners, and paraded through the streets as the perfect tagline for a country in revolt. Meanwhile Johnnie Walker was horrified to find its 2011/12 strapline 'the giant is no longer asleep' was also appropriated by the mob. Both phrases were hijacked as hashtags and used to fuel Brazil's first social media-driven mass protest.

Understandably the brands' first reaction was to distance themselves from the crisis. Fiat explained that the slogan referred to, "the joy and passion of Brazilians concerning football and its competitions being held in the country". Johnnie Walker hastily pointed out that a whole year had elapsed since they had last used their phrase for promotional purposes. And of course, this was the only sensible response, since any hint of  'cashing in' on the riots would have been brand suicide.