Advertisers turn on The Circle: but is it for their own benefit?

Food companies are racing to end sponsorship deals with Channel 10 program The Circle, following the now-infamous comments directed at a decorated Australian war hero.

When an image of SAS Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith in a swimming pool was shown on the program last week, host Yumi Stynes commented that ”he’s going to dive down to the bottom of the pool to see if his brain is there”.

George Negus added, "I’m sure he’s a really good guy, nothing about poor old Ben. But that sort of bloke, and what if they’re not up to it in the sack?"

The panel and studio audience laughed as phrases like “dud root” were exchanged about the Victoria Cross recipient.

The backlash against Stynes has been intense, especially in the social media arena, and she is now dealing with death threats, threats against her family and racial vilification.

While there is not doubt Stynes and Negus should never have made the comments, sometimes these things happen on live television.

All involved, including Stynes, Negus and Channel Ten have apologised for the remarks, and Roberts-Smith has stated that he understands the comments were not intended to be malicious, but the heat is not dying down.

Food companies and other sponsors were clambering to get statements sent out to journalists as soon as the public started its uproar.

Jamaica Blue has ceased all advertising on the program, saying “After much deliberation, the Foodco Group – owner of the Jamaica Blue franchise brand – has opted to cease its sponsorship of The Circle, effective today.

“As Foodco has previously stated, we do not – in any way – endorse nor condone the offensive remarks broadcast on The Circle last week regarding SAS Corporal Roberts-Smith.

“As an Australian-owned and operated organisation, the Foodco Group has the utmost respect and admiration for those who have served, and who continue to serve, in Australia’s Defence Force.

“We’re grateful to our many customers who have contacted us via Facebook and other channels to express their strong feelings concerning Jamaica Blue’s association with The Circle.

"Foodco’s decision to end our partnership with The Circle was ultimately based on a range of factors – including the strong feedback of our Jamaica Blue customers.

"We wish all who are affected by last week’s unfortunate comments the very best in moving forward.

Swisse Vitamins and Big4 Holiday Parks have also ceased advertising on the program, but none have done so quietly.

As advertisers continue to shout their decisions to cease sponsorship from the rooftops, many experts are starting to paint the move as nothing more than a modern advertising scheme, aimed to keep consumers aware of their brand and their commitment to doing what their customers want.

As Sydney Morning Herald writer and former marketing editor Julian Lee wrote, “How different it would have been a few years ago when, at the first sign of trouble, advertisers ran for cover, pulled the phone out of the socket and locked their doors in the hope that trouble would just pass.”

Nowadays, a possible crisis is nothing but an opportunity for clever marketing managers, and they are jumping onto social media, their own websites and anywhere else they can think of to let the public know what they are doing.

Do you think it’s just free advertising for companies to pull their sponsorship, or is it proof that they are listening to their customers’ stance on these issues?

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