Australian Open Controversy No Cause For Concern For Sponsors

Melbourne, Australia - January 30, 2016: Spectators arriving for the Women's Singles final of the Australian Open at the Rod Laver Arena.
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New data from Roy Morgan suggests that Australians are not on board with the upcoming Australian Open, given the COVID-19 concerns the event has already brought with it.

There have already been several positive cases of COVID-19 in players and staff that have flown in to Australia. This, coupled with the much-publicised complaints from the athletes about the quarantine requirements, has sparked concern among Australians.

Only 36 per cent of Australians interviewed by Roy Morgan say they want the Australian Open to go ahead as planned, while 18 per cent of people want it to be postponed for a week. 20 per cent want it played later in the year and 26 per cent want the event cancelled altogether.

“There is no clear consensus among Australians about the fate of next month’s Australian Open following several positive cases of COVID-19 in players, support staff and media who have flown out to Australia to take part in the tournament,” said Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine.

Concern for sponsors?

The controversy in the lead up to this year’s Open will no doubt be a cause for concern for Nine, which secured the rights to the tournament in a deal worth $300 million over five years starting in 2019.

It has previously been reported that Nine had requested a discount for this year’s tournament due to the delayed start.

And while the delayed start might have interrupted the broadcasting schedule, for sponsors, the recent controversy around the tournament should not be a cause for concern, according to Gemba head of marketing strategy Adam Hodge.

Hodge argues that while players – such as Novak Djokovic – might be harming their own brand in speaking out against the quarantine requirements, this will not harm the overall commercial value of the tournamanet.

“Gemba has conducted research over the years on the impact of ‘player controversy’ on brands who sponsor the sport, events and leagues they play in. This research shows that the actions of individual players do have an impact on the value brands receive from direct endorsement, but this impact (positive and negative) dissipates rapidly when we look at teams, leagues and events – it’s a ‘degree of separation’ effect,” he told B&T.

“In this case, I’d suggest that comments made by individual players would have little tangible impact on the sponsors of the Australian Open nor Tennis Australia.”

Hodge also pointed to Djokovic, who has recently come under fire for a list of demands he made around quarantining.

“Looking specifically at Novak, whilst his initial comments were seen by many in the media as tone deaf , the fact that he reacted and qualified his position quickly means I’d be surprised if any of his corporate partners would sustain any damage. In fact, his heightened media attention might even provide additional exposure for these brands in some instances.”

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