After public criticism from conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly about its sponsorship of a convention of left-wing bloggers, JetBlue Airways relented—sort of.
On his nationally televised show on the Fox News Channel, O’Reilly took JetBlue to task for its association with the liberal bloggers convention, the YearlyKos Convention, planned for August 2-5 at McCormick Place in Chicago. JetBlue donated 10 roundtrip tickets to the event organizers and was listed as a sponsor on the convention Web site, www.yearlykosconvention.org. O’Reilly expressed disbelief that JetBlue would sponsor an organization that publishes what he considers objectionable and controversial statements from posters on the DailyKos, a left-wing message board. Subsequently, JetBlue was flooded with complaints from viewers about its sponsorship of the convention.
JetBlue has not changed its commitment to offer 10 free tickets, but it did request that its logo be taken off the Web site because of the “misrepresentation” it caused, says Jenny Dervin, JetBlue spokesperson. “It was having the opposite of the desired effect,” she states. “The company will continue to evaluate opportunities based on the marketing reach it affords us,” says Dervin.
Even when the motivation is strictly to reach the most people, sponsoring political events can be sticky, particularly when controversial opinions are involved, says Nancy Frede, president, MarketSense, Wethersfield, Conn. She recommends that sponsors do their due diligence, familiarize themselves with the organization, and consider the repercussions if the potential exists for controversy. A disclaimer or condition that says the sponsor doesn’t necessarily endorse the views of the organization is a good strategy in these highly charged political times, adds Frede.