Pulled Sponsorships on St. Patrick’s Day
Following the CVS announcement that tobacco would no longer be a part of its retail offering, another batch of brand-led thinking has emerged this St. Patrick’s Day holiday. In New York and Boston, large beer manufacturers, products that are intimately tied to this holiday including Guinness, Sam Adams and Heineken, have ceased their sponsorship of holiday parades in both Boston and New York. The issue at hand? The inability of parade organizers and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) leaders and supporters to reach an agreement as to the role that specific messaging could play in the parades. While LGBT groups are permitted to march, communication and messaging specific to sexual orientation were banned. LGBT leadership put intense pressure on parade organizers and local politicians as well as the sponsors that supported the programming. In the end, many took a stand.
Brands have the opportunity to impact the social conversation, and these particular libation-oriented brands have taken center stage today. As consumers demand a continually rising bar around a brand’s purpose and reason for being, this trend will likely continue. Brands, and the leaders that guide them, can take powerful positions in our minds around the ideas that drive them and the ideas that they do not support. It led CVS to reconsider a billion dollar business. It led Guinness, Sam Adams, and Heineken to rethink the value and associations of millions of brand impressions. Brands can change how people think and act, and in this case, they have caused many to think twice about the connectivity between beer, St. Patrick’s Day, and the beliefs of passionate people pushing for change in the world.
Making longer-term brand-led decisions at the expense of short-term profits will not be every CEO’s cup of tea. But, its impact is much more likely to be remembered once tomorrow’s hangover subsides.