With Wimbledon well under way, adrenaline, anticipation and that edge-of-your-seat feeling is rife among the arenas. As is tempers.
Earlier this week the media headlines lit up with Aussie tennis player Nick Kyrgios for potentially tanking – to purposefully lose a match – in his match against French player Richard Gasquet. The headlines were further exacerbated by Aussie swimming legend Dawn Fraser’s attack at his behaviour, saying if he doesn’t behave properly he should “go back to where his parents came from”.
Tennis stars often have a number of brands aligned with them, however when a tennis star suddenly throws a tantrum and is left in a pickle being lambasted online, what’s a brand to do?
“Purely from a brand perspective, looking at Nick, when things like this happen the talent becomes less attractive to a brand,” said Mark Raisbeck, head of sport and entertainment ESP at Mindshare, “because you’re always worried when the brand is associated with an individual talent that anything that they do which is deemed to be harmful can be detrimental to the brand.
“That’s always a risk you’ve got to take as a brand investing in talent. It’s something you’ve got to factor in from the start.
“At the moment [Kyrgios] is up and down and that’s tough for a brand. If they do want to work with Nick, it is hard at the moment to invest in him because, unless you’re prepared to ride the roller-coaster with him, it’s pretty tough. Most brands invest in stable characters.”
Kyrgios’ official webpage states that brands currently partnered with the tennis player include Nike, Malaysia Airlines, IMG, Yonex, Tennis Australia and Global Sporting Connections. However, while there are some instances of brands completely breaking up with a celebrity after an issue – such as Subway and the recent relationship ending with ‘Subway Jared’– Raisbeck reckons this incident will blow over.
“If Nick hadn’t had lost that match and he’d won, the issues of that game would have been brushed under the carpet a little bit and it wouldn’t have been blown up as much in the media,” he said.
“From a brand’s perspective I think you need to identify with someone like Nick. You know what his character’s is so you’re either in it with him or you’re out. Certain brands do have crisis management consultants that will deal a crisis, but I’m not quite sure this was a crisis.”
Similarly, Dave Madelly, director of marketing and events at marketing agency BME agency, said his outburst will not lose him sponsors, even though it’s hurt his personal brand.
“There’s no doubt that Kyrgios’ brand has been tarnished through his Wimbledon campaign but is his blatant disrespect for the game and constant whinging going to lose him sponsors? Absolutely not,” Madelly told B&T. “When he’s on his game he has a style, flair and passion that young tennis players all around the world aspire to copy and that’s what sells. “
In terms of Kyrgios’ personal brand, even with headlines such as ‘most hated man in tennis’ ESP’s Raisbeck is confident the tennis player can bounce back from it.
“The tanking thing was a horrible moment for him in his career, I think personally, but then how he then dealt with the Dawn Fraser issue, he showed a little bit more maturity in how he responded to it.”
Raisbeck looked to English tennis star Andy Murray as a comparative example who had a bit of temper in his younger days.
“He was a villain in the eyes of the British public,” he said. “Then you win a couple of tournaments and that petulance is soon forgotten.”
BME’s Madelly said Kyrgios needs to remember he’s a role model, but also believed it would be easy to him to repair his rep. “As a young professional athlete, whether he likes it or not, Kyrgios is a role model for our junior tennis players and should respect the responsibilities that come with that. It will be interesting to see the reception he receives from the Australian crowd at next week’s Davis Cup,” he said.
“He can easily repair any damage to his brand with a strong performance there representing his country, showing some respect to the umpires and Australian fans who are there supporting him and showing some of that trademark flair that our tennis stars of tomorrow love to see.”