Lego ends Shell partnership following Greenpeace campaign
Toymaker will not renew current multimillion pound deal, that sees Shell-branded Lego sets sold at petrol stations, following a viral video against Arctic drilling by the green group.
Lego will not renew its marketing contract with Shell after coming under sustained pressure from Greenpeace to end a partnership that dates to the 1960s.
The environmental campaign group, protesting about the oil giant's plans to drill in the Arctic, had targeted the world's biggest toy maker with a YouTube video that attracted nearly 6m views for its depiction of a pristine Arctic, built from 120kg of Lego, being covered in oil.
Initially Lego had resisted Greenpeace, arguing that it ought to deal directly with Shell, but on Thursday it will relent. Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, the toy maker's chief -executive, said Lego would honour its existing deal with Shell, which began in 2011, but "as things currently stand we will not renew the contract with Shell when the present contract ends".
Lego toy sets are currently distributed at petrol stations in 26 countries, in a deal valued at £68m. Lego had previously argued that the relationship had a positive impact on the world by inspiring children with its toy sets.
Greenpeace activists also targeted Legoland in Windsor by dressing as Lego figures, while the campaign video, entitled "Everything is not awesome" attracted 5.9m views.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace 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 - which is a sign of changes that are happening [in public attitudes towards fossil fuel companies]," he said.
He added that he hoped the move by Lego would prompt other organisations that work with Shell, such as London's Science Museum,where Shell sponsors a climate change exhibition, to think twice about their partnerships.
"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 them a lot," he told the Guardian.
Knudstorp, CEO of the Lego Group, said in a statement on Thursday: "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.
"Our stakeholders have high expectations of 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 our attention is not diverted from our commitment to delivering creative and inspiring play experiences."
A spokesman for Shell said that the company had enjoyed a successful and productive relationship with Lego. Of the Greenpeace campaign, he said: "We respect the right of individuals and organisations to engage in a free and frank exchange of views about meeting the world's growing energy needs. Recognising the right of individuals to express their point of view, we only ask they do so in a manner that is lawful and does not place their safety or the safety of others at risk."
In January, Shell shelved its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic this summer, citing poor market conditions and internal failures. But in August, the company submitted a new offshore drilling plan to US authorities that could pave the way for the company to explore for oil in the Arctic in 2015, off the coast of north-west Alaska.
Mark Borkowski, a brand consultant and founder of PR companyBorkowski.do, said the co-promotion with Lego would have had "huge value" for Shell. "Kids have a very honest and pronounced view on things such as the Earth and -animals. I wondered why Lego with such a strong brand and such dominance would get into bed with Shell," he said.
"Greenpeace have done an outstanding job, to apply the pressure. This is a wake-up call to oil and gas and other energy companies, that need to recognise they cannot lobby the [younger] generation that is going to inherit the Earth. Their spin machines need to wake up to that."
Lego's partnership with Shell dates to the 1960s and has involved Shell-branded toy sets being sold around the world.
The Danish company prides itself on its green credentials, from energy efficiency to the use of renewable energy, and says that it is looking for alternatives to the crude oil from which it currently makes its bricks.