Saskatoon

Roughriders apologize 'for any distress' after Beyond Meat commercial spurs concerns

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have apologized to the province's cattle producers after they expressed concern about an A&W commercial for the fast food chain's Beyond Meat Burger prominently featuring Roughrider fans and Mosaic Stadium.

Sask. Stock Growers Association said discussions between the association and CFL club continue

Fans wearing Saskatchewan Roughriders garb eat the Beyond Meat Burger from A&W outside of Mosaic Stadium in Regina in a screengrab from a recent commercial. The Roughriders club has issued an apology to cattle producers in Saskatchewan after concerns were raised about the ad. (A&W/YouTube)

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have apologized to the province's cattle producers after they expressed concern about an A&W commercial for the fast food chain's Beyond Meat Burger prominently featuring Roughrider fans and Mosaic Stadium.

The issue was front and centre after a blog post about the ad started circulating online.

The post on BeefProducer.ca by rancher Adrienne Ivey said that seeing the Roughriders symbol in the commercial made her clench her teeth in frustration and broke her heart as a beef producer and a sports fan. 

She wrote that the commercial was a "direct slam to the hard working, dedicated, honest, beef producers in Saskatchewan. The very people buying Roughrider tickets."

On Sept. 17, after a meeting with cattle producers, the Roughriders issued an apology to the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA) about the commercial.

It explained that A&W has the rights to use the Roughriders' images and symbols, but that the CFL club had no role in producing the advertisement, nor in determining the content of the ad, which included Roughrider fans tasting the burger and giving their opinions. 

"We want to assure your members, and all of Rider Nation, that the advertisement does not represent any reduction of support by the Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club to specific beef or agriculture industries in our great province of Saskatchewan."

The letter says the CFL club appreciates the feedback that the association and its members provided, and understands "this is a very sensitive issue for you and your membership and for Canadian ranchers and we apologize for any distress this may have caused."

Chad MacPherson of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association said the group appreciates the apology and will continue to meet with the CFL club. (Submitted by Chad MacPherson)

Chad MacPherson, the general manager with the SSGA, said he feels the apology is genuine and will help in the rebuilding of the relationship between the Roughriders and Saskatchewan cattle producers.

"I think they're recognizing that they didn't fully understand the sensitivities around the subject and we're working together to work through it," he said. 

He said discussions with the CFL club have been positive and are continuing.

"I just really appreciate their openness and willingness to tell their side of stories and to listen to our point of view," he said.

The CFL club said in the letter that A&W had no intention to dissuade people from eating meat. Instead, the ad was targeting people who would have never considered coming to the restaurant because they didn't eat meat due to personal, dietary or religious reasons.

Ivey said the team's 'concerned' response to her blog post speaks volumes about the CFL club. (Adrienne Ivey/Twitter)

A statement from A&W Canada said it will also be reaching out to the SSGA to ensure their concerns are heard. 

"It is important that they know we are advocates of Saskatchewan beef and our beef burgers firmly remain the most popular choice on our menu in the province," the statement said.

"As a Canadian company born in the Prairies, we appreciate how important agriculture is to Saskatchewan communities. Our commercial that celebrated Rider Nation and featured fans enjoying a Beyond Meat Burger runs for a few days more before we switch to a new campaign that features a new menu item for Saskatchewan: a 100% Prairie-Raised Bison burger." 

The chain also noted it buys "millions of pounds" of Canadian beef every year, with Saskatchewan one of the company's "largest sources of high-quality Canadian beef," adding it's a supply the chain "constantly look to increase."

"We are proud of our ties to the Saskatchewan ranchers and farmers who also supply us with chicken, wheat, mustard and canola," the statement said.

Ivey said she was thrilled people felt so strongly about the post, adding it was the people who shared the post and contacted the Roughriders who helped spur the apology. 

"I think it's really fantastic," she said. 

"It just goes to show that when farmers and beef producers are willing to have an open respectful dialogue that, really, we can move mountains and create long-lasting, positive relationships moving forward." 

Ivery said she heard from the Roughriders since the blog post was published and she felt the team was honestly concerned, which she said speaks volumes about the CFL club. 

"One of the biggest things that stuck out to me in that conversation was that they were really, truly concerned about their fans being upset," she said. "And not in a business sense of potential loss ticket sales or things like that, but in a true caring, concern for their fans."

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