Sodastream: Super Bowl Disaster or Windfall?

One of the big advertising stories around the Super Bowl this weekend was Sodastream. It started with the ad being rejected by FOX because it called out Coke and Pepsi.  But it kept building as the story got hot because of an Israel/Palestinian connection.  Check out this link to a NY Daily News story about the situation: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/roger-waters-slams-sc

(Here’s a link to the (original uncut) commercial:

Ok, up to speed? So a bit of controversy around this because Sodastream is an Israeli company with facilities in the West Bank. There’s a boycott effort, lots of politics, etc. But the question for this column is “how did it impact the company’s PR the last week?”  Timing wise, it would have looked like a smart move, with Johansson starring in several upcoming hot movies (Her, Captain America).

Sodastream’s controversies gave the company a considerable pre-game “PR bump,” introducing the company and its product to millions of people.  In addition to the NY Daily News article, I saw coverage before the game in The New York Times, The Economist, Mashable, USA Today, and on and on.

The original ad, far from disappearing, saw a huge life online.  A check of YouTube shows the commercial has been viewed at least 20 million times.  108 million people watched the Super Bowl at some point, but it’s likely that the real number watching when this spot aired late in the game was much lower than that (sorry Broncos).

One wonders how much Johansson’s team researched and understood the potential issues around this commercial.  There’s always a potential negative in corporate relationships.  Companies risk the “bad behavior” of their spokespersons, but bank on that being balanced by their high name recognition.  It should have been obvious that this was in conflict with Oxfam, an organization she’s been working with for several years.  But it seems she didn’t believe there was a conflict.  Interviews she’s given indicate she was looking at what she considered the positive aspects of Sodastream’s factories in the West Bank.

Post-game, Sodastreams stock price has dropped and reviews of the ad itself have been mixed. A Washington Post headline read “Sodastream strikes out with Scarlett Johansson Super Bowl commercial” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2014/02/02/sodastream-strikes-out-with-scarlett-johansson-super-bowl-commercial/).

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