Johnnie Walker defends ‘bad taste’ Bruce Lee ad

Bruce Lee Blue Label adWhisky-maker Johnnie Walker has defended an ad featuring the late kung-fu film star Bruce Lee that has been attacked online in China for disrespecting the late film star’s avoidance of alcohol.

The ad was blasted for being in ‘bad taste’ by the star’s fans, because it associated Bruce Lee with whisky. Lee gave up alcohol after a drinking problem led to family issues.

The ad was also criticized for featuring Bruce Lee speaking Putonghua, a language the Hong Konger did not speak.

The brand told Mumbrella in a statement: “The intention of this film is to pay tribute to Bruce Lee as a true ‘game changer’, by telling his inspirational philosophy to inspire others to ‘Keep Walking'”.

“Johnnie Walker’s ‘Keep Walking’ mantra has a rich history of paying tribute to the achievements of inspirational people from many walks of life, including collaborating with Italian soccer star Roberto Baggio, Hollywood icons Harvey Keitel and Martin Scorsese and olympian Haile Gabriel Selassie, among others,” the statement read.

“In our marketing we always hold ourselves to high standards of social responsibility and in this case we consulted thoroughly with the Lee family to understand more about Bruce’s background and ideology before creating this inspirational film.”

The comments follow a story in the South China Morning Post today in which Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, who was a consultant producer for the film, said the ad for Johnnie Walker Blue Label was “not about selling booze”.

She told the SCMP: “To me this was a way to pay tribute to my father and in particular his philosophy, and to do it in an interesting way with the use of technology.”

“The alcohol was never on-screen with him. It’s like Johnnie Walker sponsoring a mini film about Bruce Lee. That’s the way we saw it,” she said.

The film used a lookalike of the martial arts legend in parts of the film, combined with special effects using old material from Lee’s films.

Lee was chosen by Blue Label to promote the brand’s positioning as a ‘game changer’.



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