Coopers’ brush with brand politics leaves bitter aftertaste

Bible Society Australia’s ‘Keeping it Light’ video, which debates marriage equality, has led to a boycott of Coopers products.

Coopers’ support of Bible Society Australia and the SA Liberal party has led to the #boycottCoopers social media movement.

Brands aligning with political movements, organisations and parties has become commonplace. Done well, it can be great for business and is a proven method of engaging with a more socially-conscious population who look to a brand’s values as a deciding factor when choosing where to spend their hard-earned dollars.

What’s now underway with Coopers and the Bible Society Australia, however, shows the potential PR danger of aligning with a cause.

For those who missed it, the news broke with the release of ‘Keeping it Light’, a video in which two Liberal MPs – Tim Wilson, an agnostic and a supporter of marriage equality, and Andrew Hastie, a devout Christian “for traditional marriage” – engaged in a discussion on marriage equality while drinking Coopers Premium Light.

 

The social media fallout has been swift, with devastated long-term loyal Coopers drinkers expressing anger and commitment to boycotting the brand, while pubs and venues nationwide have removed Coopers products from their menus.

Coopers has since distanced itself (although only slightly) by issuing two statements, the second declaring it “did not give permission for (its) Premium Light beer to feature in, or ‘sponsor’ the Bible Society’s ‘Keeping it Light’ video.”

What the partnership does include is a “creative campaign to reach even more Australians with God’s word” via a limited edition range of Coopers Premium Light cartons which feature Bible verses printed on the packaging, to celebrate the Society’s 200th birthday.

The Coopers Brewery Foundation, the brewery’s charity arm, has long-standing ties with the Bible Society and the company is also a large donor to the South Australia Liberal Party. The video and the weekend’s social media outcry has brought these two relationships to the fore.

 

Coopers’ second statement shows a brand in damage control. It denies “trying to push a religious message” and says the company “respects the beliefs of our community and does not wish to try and change them. Our family brewery is made up of individuals from a number of different backgrounds, all of whom hold differing views on politics and religion, which we think is reflective of the wider community. We would like all Coopers fans to know that we support and embrace all of our beer drinking community.”

The response tiptoes around the issue that has so many consumers up in arms – the brand’s support of a religious organisation pushing a political message surrounding its views on marriage equality – which many on social are calling out as homophobic.

For this reason, it seems unlikely the statement alone will be able to stem the tide of the boycott.

 


Late last year, CUB’s sacking of 55 workers who were expected to reapply for their jobs at reduced pay and conditions led to a 180-day dispute. The #boycottCUB social media campaign ended in the workers returning to work at their full pay and conditions, showing that boycotts against beer brands can work. So far, the Coopers backlash seems to be faster and more intense than that of the CUB boycott.

 

 

Further reading

 

Ben Ice
BY Ben Ice ON 14 March 2017