Essendon’s two major sponsors, Kia and True Value Solar, are tight-lipped as to whether their support of the football club will continue following the drugs saga’s climax.
Both of the Bombers’ lucrative contracts could be in danger with neither sponsor openly declaring a commitment to stand behind the club following the AFL’s sanctions.
A Kia spokesperson told B&T: “Kia Motors is not in a position to make any further statements at this time.”
True Value Solar said it had no comment to make on the matter.
Tuesday evening marked a turning point in the investigation into Essendon’s supplements program with the AFL booting the club out of this year’s finals, handing them a $2m fine, suspending coach James Hird for one year and limiting its future draft selections.
Kia’s co-major sponsor role is widely reported to be worth $3m a year to Essendon. When Kia’s five-year deal was signed in 2011 it was described as one of the largest co-major partnerships in the AFL.
Early last week, Kia told B&T that the car brand would not be making any decisions based on the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) interim report on the supplements scandal.
“We have not changed our position from the outset, we will not be making any determinations until such time as this has run its full course. We will then reassess the situation as it stands and make a decision.”
“At the moment nothing has changed.”
Both Kia and True Value Solar are likely to have exit clauses in their contracts but both brands stand to lose more by turning their backs on the team, according to sports marketing agency Octagon’s group commercial director Adam Hodge.
“The way the club has handled themselves has probably given those sponsors the chance now to show loyalty, particularly for a football club and one with a heritage like Essendon, the fans really value that.
“They will stand behind a sponsor that stands behind their club.”
It’s unlikely the issue has damaged the Kia and True Value brands in the eyes of non-Essendon supporters, Hodge said.
“If any brand at all in this saga has had any negative impact, and it would be in a very minor way, the only brand that’s copped it is maybe the AFL,” he added.
“That said though, the AFL have built enough credibility and heritage that the damage would be minimal.
“If this had happened to one of the other football codes the problem would have been amplified,” he added, pointing to the NRL’s Cronulla Sharks ASADA drugs scandal as an example.