Watch Your Heine … What To Do When Your Brand Accidentally Sponsors a Dog Fight



Heineken, the Dutch brew known for its golden hue and complex taste (and likely to become a favorite of Michael Vick’s), sponsored a dog fight.


Don’t believe me? After seeing this photo, what else could you think?


The photo, which makes it look like Heineken is broadening its sports appeal (to the scum of the dog fighting world), has over 100,000 shares on Facebook, and is rightfully generating an extraordinary amount of negative publicity for the international beer company.


Of course, the facts of the case are far less damning for Heineken. The photo was taken in a Thailand venue the day after an event that was sponsored by Heineken. Heineken failed to remove the banners in a timely manner, thus giving the appearance that they sponsored this barbaric scene.


But, here’s the kicker, the photo was taken over a year ago and initially went viral in April. After the photo leaked, Heineken released a statement on their website claiming they had nothing to do with the event and ardently disapproved of the actions taking place in the photo, wiping their hands clean of any wrongdoing. Unfortunately, the court of public opinion is not so easily persuaded. It’s worth noting that there was not one word in the statement about doing anything to help the poor dogs in the photo.



Now, it appears Heineken might have to do damage control a second time for the same image. Of course, this wouldn’t be necessary if Heineken had done things right on the initial go around.


First, let’s get things straight; Heineken did not sponsor this, or any, dog fight, they had nothing to do with it, are completely innocent of any charges suggesting they had any involvement, and could have done very little to prevent this picture from being taken and subsequently going viral. Granted, it looks bad (very bad), but it’s doubtful Heineken had any knowledge that a dog fight would take place in this particular venue the day after their sponsored event.


Many will say that this is example number 5,000 on how nothing escapes today’s unforgiving, high-speed medium of communication, and they’re right, mostly. But to claim the World Wide (except for North Korea) Web is unforgiving is an absolute falsehood.


In today’s Social world, remaining squeaky clean is a practice in futility. Regardless of how careful a brand may be, if they roam this Earth long enough, their tail is bound to get stepped on eventually (perhaps by their own doing). It’s how a brand responds when this occurs that makes a Social campaign worth its weight in tweets. Do they scurry under a table with their heads down, hiding their embarrassment, or do they strike back with more fervor than the viral campaign that got them in this mess?


This is where Heineken, if you’ll pardon another pun, really screwed the pooch.


By sticking with a lame duck approach, Heineken made their Social campaign utterly useless. They should have gotten loud, even brazen, about their opposition to dog fighting. They should have turned the tables, beginning an equally effective viral campaign against dog fighting. They should have put up videos of abused Pit Bulls on YouTube and shared them across their Social channels. They should have donated time and resources to the Humane Society. They should have made their brand synonymous with anti-dog fighting.


Of course, if they had done this, there would be no need to write this blog. All would have been forgiven.


Unfortunately, this is a far-too-typical example of a brand misusing its Social channels.


A Social campaign provides a brand the unique ability to interact with potential clients, fans and consumers. Social is a living, breathing billboard with an amazing business acumen and charismatic ability to speak to and convince all those in its path. No matter how many times a company changes their cover photo, how awesome looking their Infographics or photo memes are, or how many witty status updates they create, a Social campaign is all for naught if they don’t correctly respond to legitimate upheaval on their Facebook page.


Every mistake is an opportunity to grow and reaffirm your brand. If anything, Heineken missed a great chance to do something that could have bolstered their image.



Brian Kendall

Brian is a former journalist turned full-time blogger ... by choice. Brian studied at Angelo State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and English. A former editor for the volunteer-run news site Daily Source, Brian began working for Speak Social in 2012. Whether it be blogs, press releases, Wikipedia pages or whatever it is that a brand needs to communicate with, Brian creates original content for his clients. Brian Kendall on Google+ @TheBrianKendall

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