In Social Media by Clyde Mooney

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Coopers opened a hornets’ nest with its acknowledgement of the Bible Society’s 200th birthday – but now apologises profusely for offending liberal-minded citizens in favour of marriage equality.

By offering to commemorate the charitable Society’s bi-centennial with a congratulatory message on 10,000 cases of its Premium Light beer brand, in the minds of many Coopers gave – unwittingly or otherwise – support to the ideals of the Christian group.

The Bible Society (BS) then took it upon itself to further the association by featuring the light beer in a video depicting two Liberal MPs, conservative Christian Andrew Hastie and openly gay Tim Wilson debating gay marriage. Ironically in light of the backlash, the video preached the sensibilities of respectful debate, embodied in its title: ‘Keeping it Light’. (see video below)

Released late last week, the video quickly attracted a storm of backlash from the LGBTQ community, its veritable army of supporters active on social media and in social settings vocal in condemning Coopers for sponsoring BS and – by association – its traditional stand against gay marriage.

Known beer meccas in both Sydney and Melbourne – recognizing the mindsets of their patronage – have come out in support of the condemnation of Coopers, removing it from taps and actively disposing of it on social media. Some have even reported new customers attracted by the boycott.

Coopers was slow to react, initially pointing out its long history of supporting charities, but clarifying that there was no official connection.

“We want you to know that Coopers did not give permission for our Premium Light beer to feature in, or ‘sponsor’ the Bible Society’s ‘Keeping it Light’ video featuring Andrew Hastie and Tim Wilson,” said the statement.

But when the furore continued to build, fifth-generation and MD of the company, Dr Tim Cooper, and director of corporate affairs, Melanie Cooper, released a special video (below) completely distancing the company from the BS and marriage equality debate and scrapping the 200th birthday packaging.

“We have consequently cancelled the release of our Bible Society commemorative cans and will be taking steps to show further support for our community, including joining Marriage Equality Australia,” said Melanie Cooper.

“Our company supports marriage equality.”

The PR disaster seems to have evolved from complicated relationships between all involved. Wilson is MP for the Melbourne seat of Goldstein and openly in favour of gay marriage. He and Hastie, MP for the WA seat of Canning, are old friends.

Both have since expressed a lack of concern for the debate around Coopers, even suggesting they are actually loyal to brews from their constituent regions.

Hastie is also a friend to Dr Tim Cooper, and Coopers has a history of supporting the BS via contributions to help distribute bibles to the defense force.

This support was reflected in a quote by Dr Cooper in the SMH: “Part and parcel of doing a good job is reflecting on the gifts that we have and using them to God’s best purpose”.

The BS initially offered the video as a product of it teaming up with Coopers, and the commemorative packaging as “part of this partnership”. It has since clarified that the video was not officially sponsored by Coopers, and that no money changed hands.

The ‘Keeping it Light’ video, intended as the first of a series, has since been taken down.

CEO Greg Clarke told the ABC there was “perhaps a bit of naivety on our part in the way we did the video”.

But significant damage has been done to the Coopers brand, which now languishes in the post-media-frenzy void of managing the aftermath and being forced to issue an apology – that few of the affected seem to have seen and even less care, now that their minds are made.

The apparent hypocrisy of the situation is that a societal group that champions tolerance and freedom of opinion would vilify a company for implied involvement in a video promoting free speech.