During the NFL American Football Conference (AFC) Championship game played on January 18, 2015, game officials alleged that the New England Patriots used footballs that were inflated to a pressure below the league standard. Some pundits claim that underinflating an American football makes it easier to grip, throw, and catch, presumably giving the Patriots an unfair advantage over the Indianapolis Colts. Very quickly, the Twitter hashtag #DeflateGate took off on social media, and news outlets adopted the Deflategate moniker in many of the hundreds of stories that were written about the incident in the days that followed.
Soon, brands were tweeting, blogging, and publishing videos using the #DeflateGate hashtag, injecting their ideas into this quickly developing news story. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts tweeted via @KrispyKreme an image of a football shaped like a donut with the line “Ours are fully filled #DeflateGate.” (This jab was particularly delicious because Krispy Kreme's rivals, New England–based Dunkin' Donuts, is a sponsor of the Patriots.) The Krispy Kreme image was shared tens of thousands of times on social networks and seen by millions of people. Tire manufacturer Michelin USA tweeted via @MichelinUSA an image of the Michelin Man with a pressure gauge checking a football. It carried the witty line “Inflation Matters #DeflateGate,” and it was also widely shared, getting Michelin noticed at no cost.
As hundreds of millions ...