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Gap's Sikh Ad Sparks Debate Over Diversity

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

A Gap ad featuring a Sikh man -- or more accurately, the defacement of said ad in a New York subway -- has sparked conversations on racism and diversity. But an interesting centerpiece to the discourse is Gap's role in the matter.

From its Sikh ad campaign, the clothing giant demonstrates that a well-crafted diversity ad initiative makes for powerful marketing -- and effective legal protection.

Gap's #MakeLove Campaign

As part of its holiday "#MakeLove" campaign featuring a wide variety of diverse models, Gap created an ad featuring a Sikh man posing with a Caucasian woman, reports The Huffington Post.

The ad features artist Quentin Jones and Waris Ahluwalia, an esteemed fashion designer and model-actor who has landed on multiple best-dressed lists and is a regular in art and fashion circles.

But when someone defaced one of the posters in a New York subway station, scrawling "make bombs" and "please stop driving taxis," the ad campaign sparked a national debate on diversity.

Gap's Response to Defacement

After catching wind of the hateful act of vandalism, Gap tracked down the location of the defaced ad and replaced it with a fresh poster, reports HuffPo.

Going the extra mile, the company showed its solidarity and support by changing its Twitter background to the picture of Ahluwalia.

The payoff for the company has been tremendous.

'Thank You, Gap' Campaign

Some members of the Sikh community have started a "Thank you, Gap" campaign in order to show their appreciation for the inclusion of a Sikh model and its handling of the defacement incident.

Though not everyone is giving a warm embrace to Gap's new ad, the response has been largely positive and it's even attracted new customers.

Legally Smart Campaign

Gap's legal counsel is also probably saying "thank you" to the company's marketing team for ostensively celebrating diversity.

The company's swift direct action sent a powerful message to customers and employees alike that it does not tolerate acts of discrimination or harassment against minorities.

Considering how much competitors like Macy's and Barney's are struggling with race-related legal issues like "shop-and-frisk" lawsuits, it's a reputation worth crafting.

Companies should take note that taking a public stand against bigotry wins new customers -- and may protect you legally, too.

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