Working Paper

Egregiousness and Boycott Intensity: Evidence from the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Feb 26, 2015 | Zhongmin Wang, Alvin Lee, Michael Polonsky


Consumer boycotts are triggered by egregious events, but the literature has not distinguished the level of egregiousness from consumers’ preferences or disutility associated with a given level of egregiousness, nor has the literature studied how these two components of egregiousness affect boycott intensity. We provide a model of market-level boycotts that distinguishes the two egregiousness components. Consistent with the predictions of our model, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill triggered a market-level boycott effect only after its egregiousness exceeded a threshold level and boycott intensity then increased with its level of egregiousness, approximated by the officially reported daily amount of oil leaked into the ocean, and with consumers’ disutility from egregiousness, approximated by an area’s environmentalism and its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. We also integrate media coverage within our models and find that the weekly intensity of media coverage affects boycott intensity.