The cereal giant has riled the dressing gown-clad hordes with its decision to drop swimmer Michael Phelps from its advertising campaigns. The athlete had been a fixture on the front of its Frosted Flakes and Corn Flakes packets in America since he won a record-breaking eight Olympic golds last summer. But Kellogg's revoked the contract last week after News of the World published a photo of Phelps smoking a bong at a student party.
This went down about as well with the dope smokers as a drunkard tipping a can of Stella over their Wii and killing their game of Mario Kart. Pro-cannabis campaigners have described the dropping of Phelps as ‘hypocritical and disgusting'. ‘Kellogg's had no problem signing up Phelps when he had a conviction for drunk driving, an illegal act that could actually have killed someone,' said Rob Kampia, the executive director of Marijuana Policy Project. ‘To drop him for choosing to relax with a substance that is safer than beer is an outrage, and it sends a dangerous message to young people.'
We're not about to wade into that debate, not least because it's the kind that can easily rattle on for days - or weeks, given that half the participants will be too absorbed in the genius of the carpet fabric to be able to concentrate. But from a business point of view, it's a clear illustration of the perils of celebrity endorsement. The cereal brand had little choice but to drop Phelps, fearing a backlash from the vast majority who would see such a tie-up as deeply inappropriate. But in doing so, they've roused an equally fierce reaction from those who believe that smoking a bit of pot is a far lesser offence than many modern ills that perhaps go unpunished. Kellogg's has learnt that, when it comes to celebrity tie-ups, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.
There's now an online petition against the company, calling for Phelps to be reinstated. Meanwhile the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Drug Policy Alliance have also urged a boycott of Kellogg's products. Of course a boycott of products is likely to spread like wildfire. Dope smokers don't tend to need much encouragement to persuade them to not bother doing something.
That said, one red-eyed entrepreneur has clearly kept his motivation - the owner of the bong has allegedly put the pipe up for sale on eBay for $100,000. But they won't be coming free with packets of Frosties just yet.
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Kellogg's is, like, out of order, man