Support of Chiefs players may be more damaging than sponsorship association: Expert video

GEORGE HEARD & MARK TAYLOR/STUFF.CO.NZ

Chiefs franchise boss Andrew Flexman faces media as a scandal involving a stripper engulfs the Super Rugby franchise.

Sponsors of the Chiefs may be regretting their association with the team.

Marketing experts said they would probably scramble to protect their reputations - and one may have already suffered a major blow.

It comes after allegations players inappropriately touched a stripper during end-of-season Mad Monday celebrations.

Tiger Woods lost millions of dollars in sponsorships after he was found to have cheated on his wife with multiple women.
REUTERS

Tiger Woods lost millions of dollars in sponsorships after he was found to have cheated on his wife with multiple women.

While the chief executive of one team sponsor, Generation Homes, said he was disappointed by the behaviour, another, Gallagher Group showed more sympathy.

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Gallagher Group corporate services executive Margaret Comer.
Mike Scott

Gallagher Group corporate services executive Margaret Comer.

Its corporate services executive Margaret Comer sparked a social media outcry when she said:  "If a woman takes her clothes off and walks around in a group of men, what are we supposed to do if one of them tries to touch her?"

Massey University school of management sports specialist Trish Bradbury said Comer's statement in support would be more damaging to Gallagher Group's reputation than just the fact it was a team sponsor.

"It sounds like they are approving/making excuses for the actions of the Chiefs' players, which are not acceptable in this, or any, age of professional sport or sport in general," she said.

"Companies do sponsorship because they want to increase brand awareness and sales".
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"Companies do sponsorship because they want to increase brand awareness and sales".

But marketing expert Bodo Lang, from the University of Auckland, said for some sponsors, just being associated with the team would be enough to cause a problem.

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"Companies do sponsorship because they want to increase brand awareness and sales. They try to do that by enhancing their brand image. The whole idea when you have a logo on someone's back or are associated with an event is that it's positive. This case is knocking all of that on its head. It's a typical case of sponsorship gone bad."

He said sponsors might review their deals for future seasons.

TAG Heuer cut ties with Maria Sharapova  after she was given a two-year drug ban.
REUTERS

TAG Heuer cut ties with Maria Sharapova after she was given a two-year drug ban.

Watch manufacturer Festina pulled out of sponsorship of cycling altogether when it was associated with a Tour de France team that was struck by a doping scandal.

Lang said it left the company feeling it had no control over the sportspeople it was associated with. "It was spending a lot of money but it only takes one loose cannon to derail it for the brand ... the same thing is happening here."

Bradbury said in previous years there might have been an attitude that rugby players could get away with laddish behaviour. But now they were expected to meet professional standards.

"With mass media and social media, sponsors want to be see in a good light and want to be seen to be doing the right thing. That's where they might suffer."

She said sponsors would look at their target markets and consider how they would relate to the story.

There have been a number of high profile examples internationally.

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova was given a two-year ban this year after testing positive for a prohibited drug. Nike, racquet manufacturer Head and Evian water said they would stand by her but watch-maker Tag Heuer cut ties in March.

Avon also dropped her but said it was not to do with the ban.

While he did not do anything strictly illegal, golfer Tiger Woods is reported to have lost US$22 million ($30.6m) in endorsements in 2010 after his marital infidelities were revealed. He lost Gatorade, AT&T and Accenture, among others.

 - Stuff

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