An advertising campaign that featured American football stars showing disgust at the idea of two men kissing has been abandoned by Mars Inc.

An advert for Snickers was aired during CBS television’s coverage of the Super Bowl on Sunday.

It showed two mechanics eating from opposite ends of a Snickers bar and, after their mouths touch, ripping out their chest hair in an attempt to “do something manly.”

The Snickers website showed alternate endings for the ad, among them, a version called “Wrench” where one man grabs a wrench and uses it to bash the other, who responds by slamming the hood of the car down on his head.

The web advert also featured video of National Football League athletes reacting with prejudice and disgust to depictions of two men kissing.

In a statement to the New York Times, a spokesperson for Mars pointedly refused to apologise for the campaign or admit they were wrong to show it:

“Our goal was to capture the attention of our core Snickers consumer, primarily 18-to-24-year-old adult males,” company spokesperson Alice Nathanson said.

“Feedback from our target consumers has been positive, and many media and website commentators on this year’s Super Bowl ranked the commercial among this year’s best.”

Gay bloggers were the first to draw attention to the homophobic nature of the campaign, and gay rights advocates issued statements earlier today criticising the ads and Snickers producer Mars.

Judy Shepard, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, said she was outraged at the NFL and at the Snickers brand, which is owned by Mars and is the official chocolate bar sponsor of the NFL:

“This campaign encourages the same type of hate that led to the death of my son Matthew.

“It essentially gives ‘permission’ to our society to verbally or physically harass individuals who are gay, lesbian or bisexual,” she said.

“In particular, I am dismayed that these players, who are role models to our young people, would participate in perpetuating such discrimination and prejudice.”

Mars were unrepentant about the impact of the adverts, which can still be viewed on sites such as youtube.com

“We know that humour is highly subjective and we understand that some consumers have found the commercial offensive” said the Mars statement.

“Clearly that was not our intent. We do not plan to continue the ad on television or on our website.”

the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation earlier today said:

“We want to sit down with both Mars and the NFL to address our concerns and give them an opportunity to raise public awareness about the destructive impact of these kinds of anti-gay images and comments.”