Sponsorship, brand damage and leverage: when there are no winners

The IPKat has often pondered a problem concerning brand sponsorship which arises when the brand, far from being enhanced by its sponsorship of an event, a sports team or indeed anything else, faces damage though its enhanced exposure.  This issue exercised him recently in the context of two of the sponsors of football's World Cup expressing their substantial distress at the allegations of corruption at the highest level of the sport's governing body Fifa -- allegations of which it seemed that everyone except the sponsors was aware (see earlier post here).  The same issue, sadly involving the same sport but a very different set of circumstances, has arisen today, as the Sky report, "Football Club Suspends Sex Offender Player", makes plain.

In short, Scottish Premier League footballer Craig Thomson pleaded guilty earlier this month to charges of "lewd, libidinous and indecent behaviour" towards two under-age girls. Edinburgh-based football club Heart of Midlothian initially said it would stand by the player, saying there was "no reason for Craig Thomson not to continue his career as a professional footballer". But today Hearts issued a statement to the effect that it has suspended him with immediate effect, adding "No further comment will be made by the club."

Calls by charitable and other organisations for Thomson to be dismissed were initially ignored, but it seems that the trigger for the player's suspension may have been the decision of one of its sponsors, MacB Water.  The company expressed disappointment in Hearts' earlier stance and then withdrew its support as official water sponsor, a deal worth more than £5,000.

Says the IPKat, this sort of situation is one in which there can be no real winners.  Criminal offences against under-aged children cannot be tolerated in any civilised society; children deserve protection and those who exploit and violate them deserve their punishment.  Yet Thomson,at 20, is little more than a child himself and has lifetime ahead of him in which his public shame and criminal record is likely to blight the rest of his adult life. He has also in probability lost the chance to pursue the career of his choice.  MacB Water is obviously entitled to take all reasonable steps to protect the integrity of its trading brand, which means that Hearts is left with a hole in its income through no real fault of its own and its sponsor must re-cast its marketing and promotion plans mid-campaign.  Merpel adds, what a pity Thomson didn't opt for adultery.  This apparently does nothing to damage the image of the sponsored brand -- and may even enhance it -- and presumably doesn't affect the exemplary position of the footballer as a role model for today's youth.

How sponsor Tag Heuer profited from Tiger Woods' off-course activities here 
Carlsberg beer's latest deal to use wanderers Wayne Rooney and John Terry here.
Sponsorship, brand damage and leverage: when there are no winners Sponsorship, brand damage and leverage: when there are no winners Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. Can't wait to see those Carlsberg ads. I can picture it now, Rooney and Terry sneaking into a Travelodge, each with a girl on their arm...

    "Probably, not their wives..."

  2. And I guess we won't be seeing any deals soon with Anthony Weiner for smart phones, or Dominique Strauss-Kahn for upscale hotels.


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