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The internet got heated over a Sainsbury's ad. Can their shares survive the ensuing boycott? Does the boycott even make sense?

Can Sainsbury’s shares survive a boycott? Delve into the ad drama

The holidays have always been a contentious time when it comes to advertising. We all remember the outrage over minimalist, red Starbucks cups sans traditional Christmas symbols. This year, people are getting up in arms about yet another Christmas marketing ploy. 

Sainsbury’s, one of the largest supermarket chains in the United Kingdom, is under fire for a recent ad. Some people find the ad so offensive, they’re calling for a boycott on Sainsbury’s. Why is one Christmas advertisement causing such a ruckus? Buckle up, because we’re about to dive in.

The Ad

The ad, released last week, featured a phone call between a father & his daughter talking about how excited they were to be back together for the holidays. The tagline reads: “Food is home, home is Christmas”. So, what is so controversial about this ad? Well, it depicts a Black family. That’s why people on social media say they’re up in arms.

The Response

Shortly after the ad was aired, some social media users in the UK began to complain they felt underrepresented. One person tweeted: “Every single tv ad this evening is black . . . I’m going to take a stand & not buy from these companies until they *see me.* I’m white & I live in a majority white country.”

One person suggested: “You may as well rename yourself Blackbury’s,” while another person stated “You’ve managed to completely alienate the few remaining White customers you still had.” 

Another comment read: “UK is 87% white. The West is hell-bent on denigrating its white population while exalting ethnic minorities. Multiculturalism isn’t a natural phenomenon across Europe, it’s a forced agenda, an obsession. Sainsbury’s have gone full tilt & it’s nothing to do with marketing & sales.”

Sainsbury’s statement

A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s defended the company against the backlash. “Sainsbury’s is for everyone and it’s important to us that our advertising reflects this,” he said. 

Emma Bisley, the head of Broadcast Marketing at Sainsbury, jumped in to explain the inspiration for the ad. She wrote on their website: “We know that this year has been different for everyone, so we wanted to take a different approach with our Christmas campaign by simply reminding people that Christmas dishes are gestures of love and care, served up by those who matter most.”

“It’s our memories of these dishes,” she continued, “prepared by the people we love, that have the power to transport us home – whether we’re there or not.”

“It was important to us to focus on family connections and emotions, creating a relatable and heartfelt look at the memories Christmas brings, whilst providing a sense of optimism throughout. We hope everyone enjoys watching the collection and it takes them back to their fondest memories of food, home, and Christmas.” 

Racism in the UK

Indeed, like most places in the world, racism has been a major issue in the UK, highlighted by current events. Following the death of George Floyd in police custody, Black Lives Matter protests swept Britain as well as the U.S. 

Anti-racism activist Sarah Beckett spoke out against Sainsbury’s controversy to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. In response to the call to boycott Sainsbury’s, she said racism is “as prevalent as ever” in Britain. “Imagine feeling so entitled that you expect 100% of media outlets to feature someone who looks like you 100% of the time and anything less is an abomination to our society.” 

Black English recording artist Beverley Knight also backed the company’s advertising choices and spoke out against potential boycotters. “Inherent in your (boycotter’s) comment is the idea that non-white Britons should not equally participate in our nation’s traditions, because we are not as British as white people,” she wrote. “This is so, so wrong and yes, rooted in racism. This breaks my heart because you don’t see it.”

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