As the disaster in the Gulf drags past day 72 — and more photos and videos of wildlife suffering in its wake leak online — the measure of BP’s worth as brand continues to plummet. Of all the celebrities out there, this might be of the greatest concern to Edward Norton.
Several years ago, the actor approached BP Solar — a division of the oil company focused on photovoltaic systems — about partnering with him and the Enterprise Foundation on a charitable initiative that would bring renewable energy to those in need. “I proposed to them that in an effort to kind of bring different forces to bear on all these issues,” he told Larry King in 2004, “that if we create a program whereby it’s celebrities, or public figures of any sort, purchase a solar system for their homes, that BP would donate a matching system to a low-income family and eliminate their electricity bills forever.”
“And so amazingly they went for it,” he added. “They’ve been phenomenal, BP.” And thus, BP Solar Neighbors was born.
Since then, the program really has helped people in and around Los Angeles. Celebrities like Will Ferrell, Pierce Brosnan, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Brad Pitt, and Salma Hayek (among others) have all participated.
But it’s a curious problem to be faced with. BP Solar obviously has nothing to do with the oil spill in the Gulf — and yet, there’s that name BP; which has taken on curse-word status around the country. One has to wonder whether future efforts to recruit celebrities to participate might fail simply because of the parent company’s branding.
Obviously, I’d hate to see such a great program disappear, but would it be that hard for Norton to find a replacement company? I’m sure a big renewable energy player like First Solar or Sharp Solar would love the opportunity to participate.