Kawasaki Backs Away From Cutting Ad Ties With ‘Celebrity Apprentice’

UPDATE: In a statement released Thursday evening, Kawasaki said it has strived to “remain neutral in regards to American politics.” The company added that a spokesman’s comments “are a misrepresentation of the company’s position” and noted that the employee who made them is “no longer with the company.”

Kawasaki USA, the U.S. unit of the Japanese manufacturer of motorcycles and other sports vehicles, wants to part ways with “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” citing consumer backlash to President-elect Donald Trump’s involvement with the program.

“Once we understood the concerns of American citizens, we have taken the approach of agreeing not to participate in the show in the future as long as Mr. Trump is involved as an executive producer,” Kawasaki spokesman Kevin Allen told Reuters Wednesday. Kawasaki could not be reached for immediate comment. Kawasaki products appeared in the third episode of the series, as part of a placement deal brokered with MGM, which produces the series..

MGM executives could not be reached for immediate comment. NBC, which airs the series on Monday nights, declined to make executives available for comment.

Other marketers that have stuck deals to be included in the series are Tyra Beauty, Trident, Welch’s, King’s Hawaiian, See’s Candies, Lorissa’s Kitchen, Universal Studios Hollywood, the L.A. Clippers, QVC, The Honest Company and Carnival Corporation.

Trump has little connection to the series, which he helped develop and starred in for years. Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger now puts a pack of B-list celebrities through their paces. The show has garnered only tepid ratings in its run on NBC in the few weeks it has been on the air. Even so, Trump is credited as an executive producer.

Kawasaki’s move may sound more significant than it is. The company’s time with the program is already over and it has presumably paid any integration fees it owed the production. It remains unclear at present how much money changed hands, or if any money did. In certain product integration deals, companies make their products available to a TV series in exchange for exposure and publicity. Advertisers hate to be associated with controversy, and will make statements telling consumers they are no longer associated with a program, even when their relationship with the show is already over.

In 2015, for example, General Mills, Yum Brands’ Pizza Hut, PepsiCo’s Pure Leaf Iced Tea, Choice Hotels and Crayola LLC all professed to have ended support of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” after the disclosure that one of the members of the family at the center of the show, the Duggars, had sexually molested two sisters. None of them, however, pulled any of the ad money they had previously earmarked for TLC or other Discovery Communications-owned outlets.

Kawasaki appears to have responded to a grass-roots campaign called #GrabYourWallet, which was co-founded by Shannon Coulter, a California marketing consultant. The organizations initial efforts focused on getting consumers to refrain from buying products associated with Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the President-elect, but have since expanded to prod people to boycott any company or product associated with Trump’s businesses. Coulter on Twitter Wednesday afternoon said she had taken Kawasaki off her GrabYourWallet list since it indicated it would sunder its relationship with the show.

[Updated, 6:25 PM PT]

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Ending Won't Influence Future Novels

    Geroge R.R. Martin is sticking to his original plan when it comes to the future of “Game of Thrones.” In an interview with The Observer, Martin claimed that HBO’s controversial ending for the series would have no affect on the endings of the last two novels. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything at all,” [...]

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

  • Maisel Day

    My Mostly OK Maisel Day (Column)

    When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content