Drop in SodaStream stock linked to Scarlett Johansson controversy, boycott

Scarlett Johansson

An image used by activists to call attention to Scarlett Johansson’s relationship with Israel occupation profiteer SodaStream (StephInRome)

In an article entitled, “SodaStream Declines Amid Jewish Settlement Boycott Concern,” Bloomberg reported on a 3.3% drop in SodaStream (NASDAQ: SODA) shares on the first trading day following the Super Bowl:

SodaStream International Ltd., the Israeli maker of home soda machines with a factory in the West Bank, sank to the lowest since 2012 in New York amid growing criticism for businesses operating in a territory that Palestinians seek for an independent state.

SodaStream slumped 3.3 percent to $35.34 in New York, the lowest since Nov. 20, 2012. The stock plunged 26 percent on Jan. 13 after SodaStream reported worse-than-forecast preliminary earnings for 2013.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is leading US efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, cautioned Israel at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 1 about an “increasing delegitimization campaign” that includes “talks of boycotts.” Actress Scarlett Johansson publicly split with Oxfam last week after the UK-based charity criticized her role as a spokeswoman for SodaStream, because of its plant in a settlement in the West Bank.

How close is the correlation between the “growing criticism” of SodaStream’s role in sustaining illegal Israeli settlements, and the performance of SodaStream shares?

It would be difficult to quantify the impact of the boycott campaign on SodaStream’s dismal performance in the fourth quarter of 2013, but activists around the world intensified their promotion of the campaign during the busy holiday sales season. Any resulting loss in sales would have contributed to the results that caused SodaStream stock to plummet on 13 January.

SodaStream likely hoped to blunt the impact of the earnings report by timing the announcement of its deal with Scarlett Johansson on Saturday, 11 January, benefiting from largely positive press until its filing was released on Monday.

“Puny controversy” to global story

As activists mobilized in response to the announcement concerning Johansson, the story evolved from what The Daily Beast dismissed as a “puny controversy” to the subject of global headlines.

On Thursday, 23 January, the international anti-poverty organization Oxfam, which Johansson had served as humanitarian ambassador since 2007, issued its first formal statement on the controversy, noting that, “Oxfam believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

Oxfam went on to state that it was in “dialogue” with Johansson concerning the implications of her role in promoting SodaStream on her relationship with the charity.

The statement swiftly amplified the scandal into an international news story. Johansson resigned her post with Oxfam on 29 January, citing a “difference of opinion” over Israeli businesses operating in the occupied West Bank.

SodaStream ad falls flat

The controversy culminated in the airing of a heavily-hyped SodaStream commercial featuring Johansson during the Super Bowl on 2 February. During the game, activists intensified efforts to draw attention to SodaStream’s complicity in the occupation using social media. As it turned out, the commercial was widely panned, and drawing widespread ire on social media for its hyper-sexualized approach.

Can the impact of the boycott campaign be seen in the performance of SodaStream shares between the January 13 earnings report and the first trading day following the Super Bowl?

You bet.

Annotated graph of SodaStream share price







This is a positive blip but it might not last: Zionists are likely to start lining up to buy SS products. But we shouldn't be discouraged. The boycott has grown through this action, SS's market will have narrowed (even if it sells to a higher share of that market), and other companies and investors will start to take into account the risks of betting on apartheid.

Abraham Greenhouse

Abraham Greenhouse's picture

Abraham Greenhouse is a longtime Palestine solidarity activist based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter as @grinhoyz.