Lululemon Just Can’t Win


In a story we missed over the weekend, Lululemon is in trouble yet again — this time for what seems like the most harmless “partnership” in the world.

Last week, the Canadian company announced that it would be an official sponsor of the Dalai Lama and his Center for Peace and Education. Can you predict what happened next?

As a publicly traded company, Lululemon’s primary responsibilities are to its investors; customers come second and “peace and education” come a distant third, no matter what the marketing copy says.

The company simply agreed to donate $750,000 to the CPE over the next three years in exchange for the right to brag about that fact. It announced this move in a blog post titled “Psst! We’re in a new relationship” last week. Here’s a line from the post:

“What we have discovered is sometimes that [ideal] partner is right there in your own backyard.”

We get that this is kind of a joke, but the correct word is “sponsor,” not “partner.” And the Dalai Lama does not live in Canada.

That isn’t to say that the CPE is some sort of spiritually pure organization: like all groups that throw events, it requires funding. Check out this list of sponsors from the 2013 Heart-Mind Conference and note that they’re not all non-profit organizations! Novex may well be the most non-violent “same day freight and delivery services” business in the world, but its reason for being is still to make money…not to encourage peace between China and Tibet, reduce humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels, or help more people find their spiritual centers. The Dalai Lama and those who work for him know how the world works even as he decries our “largely materialistic lifestyle characterized by a materialistic culture.

In the original blog post, Lululemon writes that the partnership is really all about promoting the five principles Dalai Lama laid out in his Heart-Mind Well-Being index: get along with others, be compassionate, resolve problems peacefully, stay secure and calm, and be alert and engaged.

We can think of many potential spokespeople who embody those principles just as well as DL, even if they don’t quite have his cultural cache. Here’s one. Here’s another.

What about this guy?

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: October 27, 2014 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT