Article published: Tuesday, July 6th 2010
The Tata Group, currently on the Burma “dirty list” for selling services and equipment to the Burmese government, has been using Manchester as a testing ground for the release of its latest product. Through subsidiary Tata Global Beverages and a front company, Clever Jelly, it has been marketing its Sukk drink to young people through give-aways and radio show promotions.
Last month cycling group I Bike MCR, who pride themselves on their radical edge, also engaged in a promotional event with the company. They jointly hosted a bike ride and give-away that took place on June 5th.
Nes and Ed from the group said, “If we had known who it was we wouldn’t have done it. The marketing company that approached us, Mad Media, said it was the Clever Jelly Company who wanted the promotion doing. They offered us £350 and as we’re in debt we took the money.”
“Initially they had tried to hijack Critical Mass but we were clear to them that this wasn’t appropriate. In the end we only had to send out an email and sort out a route and we refused all joint branding with them. In the past we’ve turned down corporate sponsorship. Red Bull approached a while ago but we said no,” continued Nes.
The iconic Afflecks Palace was also part of the launch, with its website proudly stating: “Afflecks is pleased to participate in the launch.”
After talking to MULE Tony Martin of Bruntwood, the company which owns the Afflecks building, said the material would be taken down from the site. He added that this was a one-off promotion and that Afflecks would not be participating in anything similar again.
“If we’d have known beforehand we wouldn’t have gone ahead with the promotion and to be honest it didn’t go to well, most of the product was wasted and on the second day of the two day event they moved outside the building because of the mess,” said Martin.
Both I Bike MCR and Afflecks felt that the marketing companies employed directly by Tata had played a big role in getting local support. One of these, the London-based Mad Media, told I Bike MCR that it was working on behalf of a “small local company”. They painted it as a small brand, similar to the Burnley-based GO organic drink company. Nes said she had looked into the company but there were no links between the brand and their parent company on the official website so after taking advice from friends had gone ahead.
We asked Mad Media for a comment, whose previous clients include Nestle, Unilever and Nike, but they failed to respond to our email. Manchester’s Key 103 is currently taking part in an online promotion. We asked them how they felt about supporting a company that had known links to the military dictatorship. They also declined to comment.
There has been a boycott of Tata in place since June 2008 when the Burma Campaign UK updated their ‘Dirty List‘ of companies that are directly or indirectly helping to finance Burma’s brutal military dictatorship. BCUK call on people to contact companies listed to sever business ties with Burma. A new Facebook group has now been established calling for a boycott of this new Sukk brand.
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