Surf Life Saving Australia under fire over social media post

·News and Video Producer
·4-min read

A video celebrating petroleum company Ampol posted to Surf Life Saving Australia’s social media accounts yesterday has been bombarded with negative comments.

Featuring lifeguards driving a four wheeler along the beach as the eighties classic Streets of Your Town by The Go-Betweens plays, the six-second video ends with the Ampol logo filling the screen.

The accompanying text includes two Ampol hashtags, is supportive of the company and features disclosure on Instagram – but not Twitter – that the video is paid advertising content.

Surf Life Savers can be seen driving along the beach as the commercial begins. Source: Surf Life Saving Australia
Surf Life Savers can be seen driving along the beach as the commercial begins. Source: Surf Life Saving Australia

“Australians travel far and wide,” the post reads.

“Whatever your journey, Ampol will get you there. Ampol, Australia’s own.”

Response to 'fossil fuel' content on Aussie icon's social pages criticised

Despite gaining 566 likes, the Instagram post is saturated with negative comments, some from people identifying as surfers, and include the words "rotten", "betrayal", "shameful" and "disgraceful".

Many compared a life saver's role in protecting beaches to fossil fuel companies contributing to rising oceans and climate change.

Greenpeace argued that the "Aussie icon" was being used by the fossil fuel industry to “buy social license”.

“The most embarrassing partnership of 2021,” another person wrote.

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Verified Instagram accounts of lifeguards, environmental activists and artists also added responses, criticising the post. 

“Give the money back. Grab a little respect while you’re at it,” wrote children’s book publisher Monster.

“I told my four-year-old I would love him to start nippers this summer, probably not now…” said a comment from photographer Craig Parry's account.

“This is like an account of a MAFS contestant nobody likes but someone forgot to turn off commenting,” a post from Bondi lifeguard Andrew Reid's account read.

Surf Life Saving Australia says partnership helps volunteers save lives

The promotion follows a partnership announced last year, which saw the Ampol logo added to Surf Life Saving Australia's (SLSA) uniforms.

At the time, SLSA CEO Adam Weir said the Ampol's support would help both organisations "deliver excellence across everything (they) do."

The video ends with the Ampol logo and the phrase
The video ends with the Ampol logo and the phrase "Australia's own". Source: Surf Life Saving Australia

SLSA did not respond directly to questions about criticism of the social media promotion, but said their association with Ampol helps them "continue (their) mission to save lives, create great Australians and build better communities".

"The partnership allows SLSA to use Ampol’s retail network and broader infrastructure assets to promote important surf and water safety messages, which in turn save lives," a spokesperson said.

"As an emergency service and volunteer organisation SLSA works hard to make the lives of our volunteers easier as they dedicate their time and commitment to keep the community safe along the Australian coastline."

Greenpeace warns fossil fuels destroying oceans

Greenpeace Australia Pacific spokesperson Neli Stevenson said it was important to highlight the importance of Surf Life Saving Australia in protecting Aussie families, but accused fossil fuel companies of having a “devastating impact on our oceans” which puts this way of life at risk.

Ampol stays they are committed to reaching net zero emissions across their operations by 2040. Source: Getty
Ampol stays they are committed to reaching net zero emissions across their operations by 2040. Source: Getty

“Because of fossil fuel companies like Ampol driving climate change, the Great Barrier Reef is bleached almost annually, the kelp forests off the coast of Tasmania are decimated, and rising sea levels are damaging some of Australia's most iconic beaches,” Ms Stevenson told Yahoo News Australia.

“Aside from driving the climate crisis, oil companies like Ampol are also responsible for toxic oil spills that destroy marine wildlife and ruin beaches all over the world.

“Ampol's attempt to buy social license through iconic Australian institutions like Surf Life Saving Australia is a grotesque and cynical marketing exercise typical of the fossil fuel industry.”

Ampol responds to criticism of partnership with SLSA

Ampol, previously branded as Caltex Australia, is a Sydney-based retailer of petroleum products known for its chain of service stations. 

A company spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that they support a number of community and charitable organisations, including SLSA, which work towards “improving education, employment and safety outcomes” across the country.

“Ampol is a national partner of (SLSA) and our relationship helps support their important work,” a spokesperson said.

“Ampol plays a key role in Australia’s economy, serving key industries and three million retail customers each week.”

Highlighting their environmental credentials, the company said they are committed to reaching net zero emissions across their operations by 2040 and support an “energy transition” to meet the “changing needs of customers”. 

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