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Tina Casey headshot

Brand Reputation at Stake: How Bayer Creates a New Headache for Sandals

By Tina Casey

Over the past year, leading companies have been taking steps to preserve their brand reputation by withdrawing support from two shows on Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight and Laura Ingraham’s The Ingraham Angle. Those decisions can have an impact on companies that remain as advertisers on those shows.

One recent example is Sandals Resorts International. The company fell into the media spotlight last week as one of the few remaining high-profile brands to continue advertising on the two Fox programs, after reports surfaced that Bayer AG has stopped advertising during those slots.

When boycotts work: toxic speech drives leading advertisers away

The Bayer decision came to light last week, when independent journalist Judd Legum reported that Bayer had stopped advertising on the two prime-time Fox News shows.

Bayer dropped Fox from its advertising roster last year only to return several months later, but this time the break could be permanent.

Since last year, toxic comments by Carlson and Ingraham have driven away a growing number of companies concerned about brand reputation.

At The Ingraham Angle, ratings are up but advertising time has plummeted. Hulu, Johnson & Johnson, Liberty Mutual, Wayfair and now Bayer are among the major that have dropped ties over the last year. Though Bayer and some of the others eventually drifted back, the company’s new stance on Fox advertising could motivate other high profile brands to rethink their relationship on a more permanent basis.

Carlson is also experiencing the boycott effect. Earlier this year The Los Angeles Times took stock of Carlson's Fox show:

“…Many blue chip companies such as Lexus, Jaguar, Pacific Life and Pfizer, have pulled out of Carlson’s program, which now relies heavily on commercials from advertisers with 1-800 numbers who tend to seek out lower-priced ad time.”

The Times also noted that “the boycotts pose a threat to further revenue growth over the long term,” citing a 45 percent year-over-year decline in fourth quarter advertising revenue from.

Brand reputation at stake

Bayer’s departure from the Carlson and Ingraham shows puts more pressure on the remaining high profile advertisers.

As the most frequent advertiser remaining on Ingraham Angle, Sandals is especially vulnerable to criticism, and the Bayer decision comes at an awkward time for the company.

Just a few months ago, on March 18, Sandals celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Sandals Foundation by committing to 10 more years of investing in community projects throughout the Caribbean.

The company itself has also recently embarked on several noteworthy corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, including a partnership with the nonprofit organization Oceanic Global to remove single-use plastics from its operations. The ongoing effort started last year with straws, stirrers, laundry bags and gift shop bags. Sandals anticipates eliminating other plastics by a self-imposed deadline of September this year.

Sandals also participates in the EarthCheck environmental benchmarking and certification program. The new 10-year commitment lays out an ambitious agenda for environmental action, with a strong emphasis on local employment and education as well as volunteer opportunities for guests.

Sandals has also made progress on social issues. In 2004 the company modified its “couples only” policy to create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ guests. In 2017 the revised “adult couples only” policy received widespread attention when country music star Cody Alan proposed to his partner at a Sandals resort in Jamaica.

As Sandals doubles down on its CSR commitments, it will be interesting to see how the company responds to any further incidents of toxic speech at Fox News.

Image credit: John Iglar/Pixabay; Gage Skidmore/Wiki Commons

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey