Young Living Essential Oils has ended its support for three-time Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey. And while an animal rights’ group is claiming credit for the coup, the company denies the connection.
Young Living has been a prominent sponsor of Seavey since 2014. In an emailed statement, Blake Rhodes with the communications firm representing Young Living wrote the company conducts an annual review of its sponsorships, and decided to discontinue its support for “any activities related to the sport of mushing.” Rhodes declined an interview request or to answer any further questions.
Earlier this month, company founder Gary Young passed away. A Facebook post from Seavey’s kennel on Thursday referenced the musher’s personal connection with Young as a major factor in the sponsorship arrangement. In light of Young’s passing, Seavey wrote, “I will no longer be a brand ambassador for Young Living.”
Seavey added that the loss of support will not alter plans to continue racing.
Utah-based Young Living has a multi-level marketing structure that has faced criticism for exploiting lower-level sales representatives, as well as scrutiny from federal regulators over unproven medical claims it has made about the health benefits of essential oils.
Earlier this week, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claimed that the change was a result of its ongoing campaign to pressure sponsors to end their support for mushing. But in its statement, Young Living said that the company made the decision prior to being contacted by PETA.
Correction: an earlier version of this story identified Blake Rhodes as an employee of Young Living. He is Senior Vice President at Ketchum, a public relations firm.