Barbie dominates August brand coverage

September 14, 2023

Written by Benedict Nicholson

The Barbie movie was the big story of the summer, and its success has extended well beyond its opening weekend, with the film still in cinemas as we write this blog halfway through September. 

Coincidentally, it was also a top story in a different sense, as it came out on top of our brands coverage analysis in August. 

The article referred to Barbie getting near a billion dollars in ticket sales heading into its third weekend, making it one of the biggest movies of 2023 at the time, and in fact it has only continued to grow since then to become the biggest release of the year at the end of August. 

Interestingly, as this is based on a search for Fortune 100 companies, which Mattel is not, the article only made it into our analysis due to the fact it was compared to some Disney properties, but that doesn’t make it any less striking. 

It’s worth stepping back and looking at just how much of a cultural event the movie has been. Barbie’s marketing was the talk of the town on social media, with several partnerships becoming part of the discourse in their own right, but the coverage of the movie never really slowed down either.

Public interest vs. media interest mapped against each other for the last three months

Some of the top coverage included reporting that it was the first billion dollar movie directed solely by a woman, a ‘Weird Barbie’ release, and the film crossing a billion dollars in revenue. 

Whether you watched it or not, it’s impossible to argue that the summer was anything other than pink. But there were other brands that saw less positive coverage this summer, and those included Burger King and Nike. 

Burger King employee story resurfaces

Every once in a while there’s a story that resonates so strongly with the media and public that it gets a resurgence of coverage even if it’s technically “old news.” We see an example of this every Thanksgiving with a story about a grandmother accidentally inviting a stranger to dinner, which goes viral each year because they’ve kept their tradition alive. This latest viral story isn’t based on tradition, however, and instead reignites a comms crisis Burger King faced last summer that resulted in massive public support for an employee who was believed to be under-appreciated. 

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In June last year, Kevin Ford was awarded a goodie bag for his 27 years of service at the fast-food chain, and after a video of the goodie bag emerged online, the public deemed it unacceptable. A GoFundMe campaign was started for Ford instead and has amassed over $400k in donations in the last year. This was the biggest brand story to emerge that month, and more than a year later it was back once again thanks to NPR’s reporting, which has earned nearly 30k engagements in the last day, and has since been picked up by several local news outlets across the country. 

The story originally totaled over 1.4 million engagements when it was published last year, so while the 52k engagements it has earned overall in the last day are a fraction of that, the power of social media to resurface narratives still remains clear. 

Nike’s soccer missteps

Burger King wasn’t the only company to see some negative news from the past dragged up and reported a second time, as a story about them losing Messi as an athlete many years ago was one of the top stories of the month. 

The Daily Mirror had a viral article with more than 65k engagements that claimed that the reason that Messi signed with Adidas in 2006 was because Nike turned down a request from the soon-to-be superstar’s father for more sporting apparel. This had originally been reported by the Wall Street Journal at the end of last year, so it’s far from ‘news’, but it was the top article about Nike by a considerable distance in August.

Nike also saw some negative coverage come to their original position that England goalkeeper Mary Earps’ jersey would not be made available for sale. This received enough criticism that the company was eventually forced to do a u-turn on the decision, and made “limited quantities” of the ‘keeper’s shirt available for purchase. 

All in all, not a great month for Nike’s reputation.

More broadly, conversations around how corporations treat their employees and partners are back in full swing amidst a summer of strikes, with some referring to 2023’s serial industrial actions as a “hot strike summer”. It seems that 2023 in general is a year for labor action, so the public still caring about Kevin Ford’s unfair treatment and Messi’s snub despite both being news from 2022 feels more normal than ever. 

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Benedict Nicholson

In addition to leading the NewsWhip Research Center in New York, Benedict Nicholson manages partnerships with internationally recognized media outlets furthering data journalism, which includes NewsWhip’s Data for Democracy program. Benedict also facilitates consultations with communicators from the top 10 public relations agencies across America and Europe and with Fortune 500 brands to discuss consumer engagement trends and effective media monitoring. Email Benedict via

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