Here’s the Video That Ended Lego’s Partnership With Big Oil

A toy giveaway for Shell customers prompted Greenpeace to launch a social media campaign opposing the petroleum giant’s plans to drill in the Arctic.
Oct 9, 2014·
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

It doesn’t pay to toy with Greenpeace.

Lego is ending a decades-old marketing partnership with Shell Oil three months after the environmental group launched a social media campaign that hammered a toy giveaway to the petroleum giant's customers. Greenpeace's real target: Shell's plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean.

The global promotion gave Shell customers who bought its premium gasoline a chance to collect a set of Lego Ferraris.

Greenpeace turned the tables by casting Lego characters in a video titled “Lego: Everything is NOT awesome” that has garnered nearly 6 million views since July. With a slow, sad rendition of The Lego Movie’s theme song playing, the video pans over a Lego Arctic landscape. Soon, an oil spill from a Shell-run offshore oil rig overtakes the blue ocean, drowning polar bears, people, and even Santa Claus and his elves, in black goo.

The video was accompanied by a social media campaign whose online petition collected more than 1 million signatures.

Lego got the message.

Lego Group CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp initially resisted ending the partnership with Shell but changed his stance Wednesday, announcing that the company would not renew its partnership with the oil behemoth when it expires.

“This is a huge victory for the million people globally who called on Lego to stop promoting Shell,” Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols said in an email. “Shell’s relationship with Lego goes back half a century, and it desperately needs partners like Lego right now to help give it respectability.”

Still, Knudstorp bristled at Greenpeace using Lego in its campaign against Shell.

“We firmly believe Greenpeace ought to have a direct conversation with Shell,” he said in a statement. “The Lego brand, and everyone who enjoys creative play, should never have become part of Greenpeace’s dispute with Shell.”

But Lego became a big part of it. Greenpeace says more than 16 million Shell-branded Lego sets have been sold in or given away at gas stations in 26 countries.

“Lego made this move when they saw that the brand was at risk of being undermined by its partnership with Shell—a company with a dreadful reputation that’s now going all out to drill in the melting Arctic,” Nichols said.

Shell halted plans to drill for oil in the Arctic this past summer, but in August the company submitted a new proposal to start drilling in 2015.