Despite his devotion to dinner time prayers and Christian values, “Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson has been axed from speaking at a benefit in Bristol, Tenn. for the faith and bible-driven organization, Family Ministries.
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The famous family announced its latest business venture last week: Duck Commander Wines. In conjunction with the winemakers of Trinchero Family Estates in Napa, the Robertsons’ own line of Red, Moscato and Chardonnay is slated to hit stores next month. According to the Ministries, Duck Commander Wines goes against the organization’s core values.
“Our greatest responsibility is to the young people we serve. Therefore, we feel that in light of the recent news, to continue with this event would send mixed messages to the young people who go through our Adolescent Drug and Alcohol program,” Derek Bell, director of development for Family Ministries stated. “Our message must be consistent. The lives of those children may well hang in the balance. We certainly apologize to the people who have already purchased tickets, and pray they understand our position.”
A rep for the organization told FOX411 that while they had no hard feelings toward the Robertson family and respect their business decision, they were expecting a predominantly teen turnout for the event and no longer felt that the Duck Commander CEO’s presence would be the right fit.
The cancellation has spurred some upset in the Twitterverse.
“I knew this was a problem as soon as I saw the first advertisement. I’m afraid they have lost their focus,” one wrote, as another referred to the prominent television family as being “#money #wine #fake.”
This event was part of a fundraiser to benefit Family Ministries’ “School Expansion Project,” and proceeds would have benefited Family Ministries’ planned 10,000-square-foot expansion to provide updated classroom space and counseling facilities for the children that Family Ministries serve.
Tickets are being refunded by the scheduled venue, Viking Hall Civic Center. A rep for the center said that so far they have not received any complaints about the cancellation, although it was not possible to estimate how many tickets had been sold due to changes in date. The Robertson event was initially locked in for October, but was changed to April due to a scheduling conflict.
And according to Alex Shvarts, CEO of New York based digital branding agency SimplyMint, it was very appropriate for the organizers of the Family Ministries to cancel the engagement with “Duck Dynasty.”
“Drawing attention to a family who recently partnered with an alcohol business has the potential to alienate a good portion of the ministry’s audience, youths who have gone through their Drug and Alcohol program. Not every endorsement or speaking engagement is appropriate for every audience,” he explained. “Despite the cancelled event, ‘Duck Dynasty’ made a smart decision with Duck Commander Wines. ‘Duck Dynasty’s’ core audience is made up of 18 to 49 year old adults, and partnering with a wine company is a great opportunity to expand their brand into a new industry that aligns with the interests of their target demographic.”
Duck Commander Wines is just one of the many elements to the multi-million dollar business empire, which also sells a slew of other branded items including hunting gear, books, shirts, novelties and baby clothes. It was success of the business that generated the interest to start to now wildly successful A&E reality show, “Duck Dynasty.”
However, some PR experts have cautioned that the Robertson family needs to be meticulously careful in who and where they lend their name, so as to protect their brand and not alienate key components of their fan base.
“Anytime a celebrity aligns with a product, they run the risk of alienating other brands and organizations. That risk is magnified when the product is in the alcohol, tobacco or any other space which is not considered to be mainstream for all. In this case, you have a ‘perfect storm’ for controversy – a product that contains alcohol, and a relationship with a religious organization,” added Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR. “The loss of this opportunity won’t damage the Robertson brand in the long run, but may this story also remind celebrities that not all press is good press.”