LEGO has divorced Shell after a 48-year co-branding marriage. The Danish toymaker ended its contract with the Dutch oil giant over a sustained campaign by Greenpeace to draw attention to the effect of drilling for oil in the Arctic.
“Shell’s global advertising deal with LEGO is part of a carefully thought-out strategy by shell to buy friends who can make its controversial arctic drilling plans look acceptable and misleadingly associate it with positive values,” Greenpeace said.
The global NGO then created its own ad, using LEGO pieces and showing the pristine Arctic – polar bears, huskies and all – drowning in a sea of oil. The #SaveTheArctic petition already has garnered over one million signatures, which added extra pressure on Lego to cut ties with Shell. It also protested outside LEGO factories to draw attention to the issue of Arctic drilling.
“LEGO is one of the most beloved and admired toy companies in the world, and shell knows that this deal will not only increase profits, but also improve the reputation of a company known for recklessly threatening the fragile arctic ecosystem,” Greenpeace said.
Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of the LEGO Group, responded. “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 Greenpeace’s dispute with Shell,” he said.
Nevertheless, Lego did break off its decades-long relationship with Shell. “We want to clarify that as things currently stand we will not renew the co-promotion contract with Shell when the present contract ends,” Knudstorp said in a statement.
Knundstorp maintains that the company’s relationship with Shell was beneficial as it delivered LEGO bricks to “into the hands of more children and deliver on our promise of creative play”.
“Our stakeholders have high expectations to the way we operate. So do we. We do not agree with the tactics used by Greenpeace that may have created misunderstandings among our stakeholders about the way we operate; and we want to ensure that our attention is not diverted from our commitment to delivering creative and inspiring play experiences,” he said.
But Greenpeace disagrees, arguing that by placing its logo in the hands of millions of children, “Shell is building brand loyalty with the next generation of consumers. Shell has launched an invasion of children’s playrooms in order to prop up its public image, while threatening the arctic with a deadly oil spill. We can’t let shell get away with it”, it says.
“If we convince Lego to cut ties with Shell, it will be a major blow to Shell’s strategy of using deals with popular brands to distract from its Arctic drilling. As millions stand up to expose Shell’s true face, it will become harder and harder for Shell to get the public support it needs to destroy the Arctic,” the activist NGO said.
Wall Street Journal reports that the first Lego sets featuring Shell were released in 1966. They featured four Formula One Ferraris, a Grand Prix podium, a Shell service station and Lego scientist.
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