Whilst there is nothing wrong with having an affiliation to an organisation you believe in or wish to support, there's a few things you need to keep in mind.
We often see problems arise when celebrity or other endorsements are complicated by either party (usually celebrity) doing something that does not align with company and/or community values.
This needs to be very clearly spelt out in the policy and partnership when you put that together. Any public material that makes reference to the partnership or endorsement should be run past the other party so they can give approval before it goes out.
In this case a TV commercial was published by the Bible Society of Australia, referencing endorsements by Coopers Brewery without their authority.
There was also a commemorative beer released referencing the partnership between the two entities that wasn't received well by the public. This should have been market tested extensively before release. The talent used in the commercial was questionable; it didn't fit the demographics of the target audience. Again, extensive market testing should have been conducted beforehand as well as a thorough sanity check between both parties.
In essence, the debate around marriage equality is not something Coopers should be leading the charge on, they're brewers of beer and should stick to that.
Coopers response was reasonably good; they were quick to respond and asked for the commercial to be removed immediately (which it was).
Their video response from executives was also good but they were a little too heavy on the teleprompter.
We hope they've now conducting a full review of their various partnerships and are making it clear that all content that references any endorsement must have approval, be market-tested and be given a thorough sanity check.
What will be the cost to Coopers?
In the short term, this incident will probably hurt their sales, with many pubs and customers boycotting their range of beers in response.
This incident will have also cost the company a lot in time with response absorbing plenty of hours from key executives, legal, communications and other business units.
Their reputation will undoubtedly take a hit and it will take some effort to re-build the brand.
If you'd like some more information on the topic, have a look at our blog from August 2014 where we discuss the importance of aligning company vision and values and picking your partner wisely.