Nestle Purina PetCare has unseated Pedigree to become the official pet food sponsor of the Westminster Kennel Club, which hosts the world-renowned annual all-breed dog show.
The switch ends a 24-year relationship between Pedigree and Westminster. Pedigree commented on the divorce on both its Facebook page and via Twitter. The company stated that it is a fan of all dogs, including purebreds, mixed breeds, show dogs and shelter dogs.
"We are disappointed to learn that Westminster Kennel Club is ending our 24-year partnership in favor of a new partner, so that they can more completely focus on purebred dogs," the post reads. "We will continue to focus our efforts to champion causes that help more dogs find loving homes. All dogs rule."
Terms of the multi-year agreement were not disclosed. A spokesman for Westminster Kennel Club declined to reveal the length of the deal. "The relationship will go beyond the dog show," the spokesman told Marketing Daily. "In keeping with the practice and the philosophy of each organization, it will include activities year-round to promote the sport of showing dogs, responsible dog ownership and care, and the celebration of all dogs in our lives."
Westminster represents the finest in the sport of purebred dogs, said Candy Caciolo, Purina portfolio director of specialty, breeder and pet acquisition. "The opportunity to sponsor this show fits perfectly with Purina's long-standing commitment to the dog fancy," she said in a statement. "Many Westminster champions -- including the last five 'Best in Show' winners -- have been fed Purina Pro Plan brand dog food, so it's fitting for Purina to partner with this distinguished kennel club."
Despite that claim, many naysayers on the Westminster Facebook page questioned why the prestigious show would partner with a lower-shelf, grocery store brand pet food.
Other posters were upset that Westminster had ended the relationship with Pedigree, whose ads touted its support of animal shelters via the Pedigree Adoption Drive effort. Others, in a minority as of press time, thanked Westminster for ending the relationship with Pedigree. Said one: "We are SO tired of having rescue dogs pushed down our throats. There's a time and place for all that retoric [sic] but NOT during Westminster Dog Show."
Westminster Kennel Club President Peter R. Van Brunt reinforced the perception that by partnering with Purina the organization was somehow distancing itself from rescued dogs and shelters. "This new and exciting partnership will further enhance our position as America's Dog Show and strengthen our ties with the purebred dog community," he said in a statement.
St. Louis-based Nestle Purina PetCare, however, stated that it "promotes responsible pet care, humane education, community involvement and the positive bond between people and their pets."
The 136th Annual Westminster Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show will be held February 13-14, 2012, at Madison Square Garden and televised live on USA Network.