More companies cut ties with the NRA after customer backlash

More and more American businesses, including car rental companies and airlines, an insurance giant, and a major bank, are severing ties with the National Rifle Association in the face of torrents of criticism from customers on social media.

The backlash began on Thursday after the First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO), which has an NRA-branded Visa credit card, said in a statement that it had decided not to renew the contract.

Shortly afterward, other companies announced they would end their NRA membership discount programs.

The groundswell comes amid calls for tighter gun control after the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, last week that claimed the lives of 17 people. Those calls have been rejected by the NRA, which instead has pointed the finger at school security, the mental health system and the FBI.

RELATED: The National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun rights supporters

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun rights supporters
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The National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun rights supporters
A gun rights demonstrator armed with a rifle walks past a sign memorializing the children and teachers killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, as protesters aligned with the Women's March hold a rally against the National Rifle Association at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, U.S. July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Supporters listen to U.S. President Donald Trump deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Supporters wait for U.S. President Donald Trump to deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Supporters wait for U.S. President Donald Trump to deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Onlookers, including a man wearing a National Rifle Association (NRA) t-shirt, watch as a 95-by-50-foot American flag is unfurled on the side of an apartment complex, a replica of the "The Great Flag" that was spun, woven, dyed, constructed and displayed on the same building by Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in 1914, in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
NRA Executive Director Chris Cox (L) and Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre (R) welcome U.S. President Donald Trump (C) onstage to deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
File Photo: NRA gun enthusiasts view Sig Sauer rifles at the National Rifle Association's annual meetings & exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. on May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Gun enthusiasts look over Smith & Wesson guns at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meetings and exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II/File Photo
James Bell from Nashville, TN, look over rifle scopes from Burris Riflescope at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meetings and exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II/File Photo
Gun enthusiasts poses for a picture with an FN MK 48 machine gun and a MK 19 grenade launcher at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meetings & exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Gun enthusiasts look over guns at FN America firearms at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meetings and exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Gun instructor Robert Allen (L) works with Eathan Hawkins (8) at the air gun range at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meetings and exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Indiana Governor Mike Pence addresses members of the National Rifle Association during their NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at their annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, May 20, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Attendees recite the pledge of allegiance before the National Rifle Association's NRA-ILA Leadership Forum during their annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Attendees visit the trade booths during the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Attendees visit the trade booths during the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Activists hold a protest and vigil against gun violence on the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, outside the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia December 14, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Brendan Walsh looks at a rifle scope in the trade booths showroom during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee April 12, 2015. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Fans wait in line to meet musician and supporter of the NRA, Ted Nugent, who was signing autographs during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee April 12, 2015. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Musician and supporter of the NRA, Ted Nugent, signs autographs during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee April 12, 2015. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Dave Verner looks at pistols and scopes in the trade booth area during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee April 11, 2015. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Brett Throckmorten of Barnes Bullets shows Logan Wingo how to sight down an electronic rifle in the trade booth area during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, April 11, 2015. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
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A spokesman for Visa said in a statement: "FNBO has informed us of its intention not to renew the NRA co-branded card program when its agreement with the NRA expires. We will support the issuer’s efforts to wind down the portfolio smoothly."

A marketing website for the card was offline as of Friday. But a cached version of it said customers would "DEFEND FREEDOM with the NRA Visa Card" by helping fund NRA programs. The ad said it gave members $35 after their first transaction, "enough to reimburse your one-year NRA membership!"

Survivors of the Parkland shooting and customers took to social media to demand that companies end any NRA-related programs.

David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland massacre, tweeted his gratitude to companies who announced they were ending their partnerships, and, in a series of individual tweets, Hogg asked other companies to follow suit.

Some did. Among those cutting ties with the NRA were the car rental groups Enterprise, Hertz, Avis and Budget; the insurance giant MetLife; the software firm Symantec; and the Boston-based home security company SimpliSafe. Delta and United also said in statements Saturday that they will no longer offer travel discounts for the NRA. Each airline asked that related information be removed from the NRA website.

NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway said the companies are making a smart business move to protect their brand.

"The most valuable person in world of consumer business is an 18 year old. They have influence over what the rest of us believe is 'cool' and have a lifetime of discretionary spending ahead of them," Galloway told NBC News. "Their recent galvanization against the issue has made the NRA very uncool and an easy target for firms wanting to say to the most important cohort 'Hey, we get it, and are with you.'"

But Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, said that the firms are walking a thin line.

"This is a bold move," said Schulz in an email, "but also a risky one because passions burn so hot on both sides of the topic of guns. Many will applaud the move, but NRA members are famously loyal and the organization has shown itself as being very good at mobilizing its members, so there's a real possibility of a significant backlash."

Amid the genuine customer and user outrage, it appeared that Russian trolls might be taking part in the campaign as well. Accounts with suspicious profiles that matched signs flagged by researchers as being likely trolls or bots tweeted about and directly at the individual companies. Some of the accounts taking aggressive stances also used hashtags flagged by Hamilton 68, which tracks activity by known Kremlin-linked accounts, and showed signs of automated behavior.

Suspicious Twitter accounts also jumped into the social media debate in the immediate aftermath of the shooting to stoke divides on both sides of the gun control debate and spread hoaxes

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