The tennis world was left stunned on Monday when Russian grand slam champ Maria Sharapova announced she had a failed a drug test after the Australian Open this year.
The drug she had been taking for health reasons contained meldonium, a substance which, according to a number of reports, had been on the watch list for the tennis for while but became a banned substance from January 1 2016.
Since the announcement, sports brand Nike was the first of her sponsors to announce it was halting its sponsorship as the investigation continued. In the subsequent hours, reports say luxury car brand Porsche and Swiss watch company Tag Heuer have dropped or suspended her as a sponsor. The statements from Nike and Porsche are below. We had not heard back from Tag Heuer at the time of publication.
Brand sponsorships and ambassadorships arguably come with an element of risk – just look at the number of brand ambassadors who have stuffed up their endorsement – and now the media is perched to see what the rest of her sponsors, such as Evian Head and Avon Cosmetics, decide to do.
While some brands are quick to drop a sponsor when something goes wrong, take the salary capping scandal of Melbourne Storm and its sponsors superannuation brands HOSTPLUS and ME Bank, there are also times when a brand stands by its athlete, like car brand Kia saying it would honour its contract with Essendon Football Club during the drug scandal.
Nike’s move to just “halt” its sponsorship and not drop Sharapova completely is an interesting one, reports the BBC, given the brand has been through some rough patches before.
“I can’t help feeling that Nike has been burnt before; they have stayed with people like Lance Armstrong in the past, and maybe they are just being rightly cautious now,” Karen Earl, chairman of the European Sponsorship Association told the BBC. Nike had also previously stood by golfer Tiger Woods when he was embroiled in a moral scandal, something The Independent called the sports brand out for, suggesting the company doesn’t give the same treatment to its female athletes as its male ones.
A lot of contracts also have clauses included if something happens, and sometimes pausing a contract is necessary until all the facts are gathered, said Rob Smith, managing director at sports management company CSM Sport & Entertainment.
“In the absence of full and complete information or a decision of a tribunal or court, pushing pause on or suspending a partnership can be prudent and this mechanism ought to be included in the contract at the outset,” he told B&T. “Disrepute clauses and the like are also absolutely necessary but their effect can be limited until disrepute has been or can be proven.
“There is a lot to be said for a brand standing by the talent at times like these, at least until everyone has a clear picture of the facts and circumstances.”
Still, independent sponsorship consultant Nigel Currie told the BBC in the olden days sponsors would have done nothing and hoped it would blow over. Now though, brands are paranoid about their image and “increasingly focused on corporate social responsibility issues in a way they were not before”.
And when you bring social media into the mix it can prove a different equation for brands. Even more so as brands should make sure their athletes are social media savvy.
“The impact of social media outrage is a relatively new consideration in a situation like this,” writes Jeff Beer at publication Fast Co.Create. “Before Sharapova’s news conference was over, there were calls on Twitter for reactions from Nike and other sponsors. Imagine if the Tiger Woods scandal broke today? Would weeks and months of indecision be tolerated? Or how about if Twitter was around when Kobe Bryant was facing sexual assault charges?
“Brands need to balance the public venting online with their own stance.”
When looking at the figure jumps of social media mentions, according to marketing tech company Amobee, Tag Heuer was the worst hit with an increase of mentions at 363 per cent. This is compared to Nike’s increase of 88 per cent and Porsche’s 51 per cent.
This suggests to Amobee that smaller brands with individualised sponsorships of athletes are at a higher risk – and a higher reward – for when either positive or negative things happen to athletes.
“If a larger brand like Porsche, or in particular Nike which has a huge global roster of athlete endorsements needs to drop someone, it represents just a small hit to their overall marketing plan,” said Amobee.
“But for a smaller brand like Tag Heuer bets on a celebrity, team or athlete, that falls out of favour; that association proportionally represented a much bigger slice of the how the audience thinks of the brand.”
Still, CSM’s Smith stressed brands need to make their own decisions. “And standing by talent, up to a point, can be a positive statement in itself for the brand. Brands must be careful not to allow their decision making to be influenced by media reporting and make objective decisions based on fact.”
Nike’s statement: We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova. We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues.
Porsche’s statement: We are saddened by the recent news announced by Maria Sharapova. Until further details are released and we can analyze the situation, we have chosen to postpone planned activities.
Lead image via Flickr – Justin Smith.
Sam Cousins, The Media Store’s chief strategy officer, has led a varied life, to say the least. From being a swimming teacher and a lifeguard to working at dentsu X and iProspect before joining The Media Store earlier this year, Cousins has had one helluva journey. “Before I fell into media, I worked various jobs; […]
We can say summer is officially here with the start of Seven’s cricket coverage last night. However, viewers might still be in football mode, with last night’s Big Bash game between the Brisbane Heat and the Melbourne Stars attracting just 318,000 OzTAM metro viewers. In fact, more people were interested in Bill Bailey’s Wild West […]
Spotify’s chief financial officer, Paul Vogel, has announced that he will be parting ways with the streaming giant on 31 March next year. Ben Kung, VP of financial planning and analysis, will “take on expanded responsibilities” to support the company’s realignment of its financial leadership team, Spotify said. Vogel’s departure follows Spotify’s announcement four days […]
Leading digital outdoor company QMS has announced it is the first-ever inaugural partner for Most Contagious APAC, the landmark London event by creative and strategic intelligence company Contagious, which will be showcased in Australia on Tuesday, 12 December in Sydney and Wednesday, 13 December in Melbourne. Most Contagious is an event that delivers key advertising […]
Omnicom’s data and analytics division Annalect has partnered with Meta, giving it access to Advanced Analytics (AA) – one of Meta’s privacy-focused measurement solutions – to provide Omnicom’s clients with future-proof, next-level measurement. Omnicom is the first holding company to have access to AA. AA allows advertisers to combine their first-party data with Meta’s ads […]
The Foxtel Group has announced exclusive, multi-year rights extensions with the cricket boards of South Africa, England and India, cementing its position as the home of an unrivalled line-up of local and international cricket in Australia. The long-term deals will see all competitions and all Australian men’s and women’s Test, One Day International (ODI) and […]
News Corp Australia has released a special one-off Taylor Swift magazine in time for Christmas and her Australian tour kicking off in February 2024. The 100-page gloss publication, produced by the in-house content marketing agency Suddenly, is a celebration of Taylor Swift’s songs, career and life. It has everything people need to know about The […]
WPP’s AKQA has launched Fixmas.gift, an environmentally conscious AI-powered DIY assistant, affectionately known as Fixie, for a one-stop solution for all things repair. Fixmas.gift hosts an array of guides and inspiration to empower people to prolong the lives of their belongings or purchase pre-owned items that need a little love and care. Fixie can: Help […]
wildbean cafe has launched a major new brand platform across Australia and New Zealand via Ogilvy, in a bid to re-engage Kiwis and introduce Aussies to its great selection of barista-made coffee and food. Spearheaded by a major trans-Tasman campaign using the tagline ‘Drives you Cravey’, it is the first-ever through-the-line brand activity for wildbean […]
UnLtd, the social impact organisation of the media, marketing and advertising sector has announced key personnel changes as the organisation plans for its next chapter of growth and innovation in support of at-risk young people. Chris Freel (lead image), CEO of UnLtd, will be leaving the organisation in February 2024, having led UnLtd since 2017. […]
Marc Collister (pictured) of P2 Content Creators spills the beans on his 2024 predictions drawing from two decades of experience in the advertising, film and television industry. I’m certain it will come as no surprise that in 2024, we can expect our industry to move at breakneck speed again. With even more rapid shifts in […]
Reddit’s annual Recap report has revealed the issues and moments that captured Australia’s collective mind over 2023 with, naturally, the Matildas featuring high on the list. The inaugural Australia-hosted Women’s World Cup saw Aussies glued to the footy (or, indeed soccer) with one enterprising user capturing the moment that Cortnee Vine scored the winner against […]
Zeno Australia has announced expanded creative design capabilities and the appointment of Jim Michell (lead image) to its senior leadership team. The new moves support strong growth in the region. Zeno Australia’s clients, including Abano Healthcare, Motorola and Yorkshire Tea, can now tap into a suite of creative design services to augment the agency’s work […]
Spikes Asia has revealed its 2024 Jury line-up today. The 93 industry experts from across 18 markets represent APAC’s leading talent from a diverse range of disciplines. 2024 sees the highest representation from brands, including Budweiser, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and, for the first time, Adidas, AXA Asia, Burger King, FWD Insurance, PepsiCo, Suntory and […]
Assembled Media, is drawing upon the creative power of TikTok Creator Marketplace to help generate unique, impactful content for iconic stationery brand, BIC. The social activation campaign titled ‘A Pen for Every Side of You’ promotes the flexibility of BIC’s 4 Colours pen and is active nationwide on the BIC Stationery TikTok account. The campaign […]
Pinterest reckons jellyfish & moody cowboys will be big in 2024. Refused to be drawn on the return of shoulder pads.
IAB Australia has launched ‘Evolution in Market Mix Modelling’, the fourth module in its Marketing Measurement Innovation Series, which has been developed by IAB Australia’s Ad Effectiveness Council. The module explores what is driving the increased use of MMM and how the technique is evolving with advances in computing power and machine learning to provide […]
Scope3, the collaborative sustainability platform leading the decarbonisation of media and advertising, announced the addition of digital out-of-home (DOOH) to its emissions measurement. With DOOH ad spending predicted to grow from $17B in 2023 to nearly $24B by 2028, measuring this channel brings us one step closer to understanding the total impact of digital advertising […]
NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show Asia Pacific, is now open for online registrations for the main conference. Jointly organized by the National Retail Federation and Comexposium, Retail’s Big Show Asia Pacific will take place from 11 – 13 June, 2024 at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore and is expected to draw thousands […]