Sunday, 12 October 2014 22:00

Public campaign sinks Lego’s deal with Shell

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A concerted campaign by Greenpeace has led to Lego ending a lucrative deal with the Shell oil company A concerted campaign by Greenpeace has led to Lego ending a lucrative deal with the Shell oil company

A four-month public campaign headed by environmental group Greenpeace has led to Lego, the international toy brand, ending a lucrative deal with the Shell oil company.

The two organisations have business ties dating back to the 1960s and, in 2011, signed an agreement whereby co-branded Lego toys are sold at filling stations in 26 countries. The deal is reported by Britain’s ‘The Guardian’ newspaper to be worth around $US109-million.


However, late last week Lego Chief Executive Jørgen Vig Knudstorp announced that the current marketing contract would be allowed to run its course but would not be renewed. This follows the release of a video in early July entitled ‘Everything is Not Awesome’ (a play on the ‘Everything is Awesome’ theme tune to the Hollywood-produced ‘The Lego Movie’) which depicted a pristine Arctic – built from 120kg of Lego bricks – covered in a pool of black oil from a Shell oil spill.

The 1-minute, 45-second video soon went viral and was close to reaching the one-million views mark barely a day after being launched. To date, it has attracted nearly six million views on YouTube.

Greenpeace targeted Lego in an effort to get at Shell, which is involved in drilling for oil in the Arctic. Greenpeace opposes this on the grounds that further damage to the once-prestine environment could have disastrous long-term consequences.

Lego initially ignored the campaign, saying the environmental group should talk directly to Shell. But sustained public pressure, as well as further Greenpeace protests at one of the brand’s Legoland children’s theme parks, caused a change of heart.

In a statement released on Thursday, Lego’s Knudstorp said: “The Greenpeace campaign uses the Lego brand to target Shell. As we have stated before, we firmly believe Greenpeace ought to have a direct conversation with Shell. The Lego brand, and everyone who enjoys creative play, should never have become part of this dispute between Greenpeace and Shell.” He added: “We do not agree with the tactics used by Greenpeace, [but] we want to ensure that our attention is not diverted from our commitment to delivering creative and inspiring play experiences.”

For its part, Greenpeace said the announcement was “fantastic news”. Speaking to ‘The Guardian’, John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace in the UK, said the response from the public to its campaign had been extraordinary in terms of scale and creativity. “It did touch a bit of a raw nerve about the partnership between the two companies that people thought was completely inappropriate – for a toy company like Lego to partner with an oil corporation.”

Sauven continued: “Clearly Shell is trying to piggy back on the credibility of other brands. It’s a good PR strategy if you can get away with it. But, as we’ve shown, if you can’t get away with it, that social licence is taken away. It does damage [Shell] a lot.”

In a post on its international website, Greenpeace said: “In a wider sense, [Thursday’s] announcement aligns Lego with other progressive (but hardly marginal) brands like Google, Unilever and Facebook who are setting the pace in today's world. Google's use of renewable energy is particularly impressive, building huge solar arrays to power the giant data centres that run so much of our lives. Something is happening at the CEO level of these firms. There is a growing sense that it's time to get on the right side of history, or become history yourself.”

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