Land Rover, Land Rover send the British Monarchy on over.
On Saturday at the Royal Windsor Horse Show held on the grounds of Windsor Castle, royal photographer and Land Rover owner, James Whatling, was treated poorly by Land Rover, an official partner of the event. A respected member of the British press, James Whatling has been working as a photographer for nearly two decades and was nominated for Royal Photographer of the Year at the Picture Editors Guild Awards in 2003. Known for his wit and candor, James Whatling’s Twitter account @ is a favorite among those who follow the British Royal Family. Even those who aren’t avid royal watchers and wouldn’t recognize James Whatling by name would have likely seen photos from his impressive portfolio. So his treatment by Land Rover at the Royal Windsor Horse Show as detailed on his Twitter page is extremely disappointing.
Not cool, Land Rover.
While there are twenty-eight corporate sponsors for this year’s show. Land Rover is the only one that gets its logo next to that of the Royal Windsor Horse Show throughout their website. That’s the kind of placement you only get if you shell out the big bucks.
Ironically the Royal Windsor Horse Show touts media presence at the event on its website as an incentive for companies to become sponsors.
The Windsor Horse Show had Tweeted the admittance policy.
No mention that the keys to gain admittance had to belong to owners of certain occupations.
Land Rover has faced a number of discrimination accusations over the years. On November 17, 2014, a current employee of Jaguar Land Rover working in Birmingham accused the company of “extreme racism” and noted promotions aren’t based on merit or qualification but because they are the “managers own friends and family.” In an article on birminghampost.co.uk, the company was described as “an aggressive, bullying culture” by Chris Shot who won his case against them for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. Shot also noted, “Land Rover puts on a big front about their being an equal opportunities employer but the reality is it’s all about whether your face fits or not.”
Discrimination accusations by customers tend to be far less common than those made by employees which makes Whatling’s experience all the more surprising. To quote Warren Buffet, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
James Whatling noted that his experience at The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials was an extremely positive one.
So why such a difference in treatment at the two events? Could it have something to do with the Royal Family’s special relationship with Land Rover, the terms of which are unknown?
It’s been reported that members of the British Royal Family have a deal with Land Rover, getting their luxury vehicles for a small fraction of the cost in exchange for being unofficial brand ambassadors simply by being seen in their vehicles. Media outlets questioned if Prince George being driven home from the hospital in a £140,000 Range Rover was part of an agreement. As one nbcnews.com article pointed out, “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s emergence from London’s St. Mary’s Hospital was captured by the world’s TV cameras with the Range Rover logo prominent as the royal tot was tucked into his car seat.” A historic moment makes for impactful product placement. Several months later, the Daily Mail ran a piece on Carole, Pippa and James Middleton being given luxury Range Rovers at a deeply discounted rate. Does Land Rover really need Carole, Pippa and James spotted driving around in their vehicles to boost sales or was it the result of a provision worked out by the Cambridges so the in-laws could benefit from their special deal with Land Rover?
In Kate’s recent Vogue UK appearance, it was noted she drove herself to the location in her Land Rover Defender. With Vogue indicating Kate had selected everything from clothes to “the locations used as a backdrop”, a number of people wondered if Kate’s Land Rover visible in one of the shots was product placement, fulfilling some kind of contractual obligation.
On Sunday, 90th birthday celebrations for the Queen continued at Windsor. The evening featured 900 performing horses, musical performances and celebrity-narrated highlights from Her Majesty’s life.
Gordon Rayner had predicted a heavy Land Rover presence and he was right.
And sure enough, a Land Rover appeared hauling a giant birthday cake.
Land Rover seems to be using its ties to the British Royal Family to remind the world that despite being owned by India’s Tata Motors which purchased it from Ford in 2008, and with factories in various countries including India, China, and a new facility being built in Slovakia slated to be finished in 2018, it’s still a British brand. In a Tweet on Monday, it stated, “Rain, mud, horses and royalty. Celebrating Britain at its best.” It included a photo of the Queen appearing to emerge from a royal Range Rover.
The relationship between Land Rover and the British Royal Family becomes even more curious with a quick glance at the automobile manufacturer’s Sponsorship page. First listed is Land Rover’s support of Ben Ainslie’s bid to return the America’s Cup to Britain, the only cause in which Kate seems genuinely interested. The next Land Rover sponsorship mention is of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. As noted in an Express article written by Richard Palmer, “The Queen and her family have taken a close interest in the tournament. The 89-year-old monarch is patron of the RFU, while her grandsons, Princes William and Harry, are are vice-patrons of the Welsh Rugby Union and RFU respectively. Princess Anne is also patron of the Scottish Rugby Union.” The fourth listed Land Rover corporate sponsorship is Invictus, the driving force behind which is Prince Harry. The sixth is equestrian sponsorship which is basically everyone in the British Royal Family, minus Kate who is pretend-allergic to horses.
Corporate sponsorship is wonderful but Land Rover’s mirroring the sports-centered interests of members of the British Royal Family suggests there could be far more complex dealings between the British Royal Family and Land Rover than just steeply discounted luxury cars in exchange for the royals being seen in them. Beyond Prince Harry’s Invictus Games which does tremendous work for wounded, injured or sick service personnel, the rest aren’t humanitarian endeavors. No one at Land Rover has a soft spot for any of the many worthy causes to help those suffering?
With Land Rover acting as the corporate sponsor of the British Royal Family, what exactly is Land Rover getting for their financial support? And what are members of the British Royal Family getting in return? In the Cambridge’s Anti-Press Crusade, will Land Rover-sponsored events become increasingly more unwelcoming to the media under the influence of the royal family, even if it means losing customers?