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Fixing in tennis: Experts warn of damage to brand value, sponsorships

Brand experts say that brands must be cautious in being associated with scandals

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a shot during a practice session, ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. AP/PTI
Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a shot during a practice session, ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. AP/PTI

It has been a year full of scandals for sports. From the fixing controversy that rocked the Indian Premier League (IPL), which culminated in the suspension of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, to the widespread corruption in FIFA — the governing body of football —sports has been repeatedly hit by scandals.

The latest addition to the list is tennis. Last week, BBC and BuzzFeed published an investigative report alleging widespread match-fixing and corruption in tennis that has overshadowed the ongoing Australian Open. The report also alleges that one top-50 player, competing in the Australian Open, is suspected of repeatedly fixing his first set.

While the accused will face the law, experts say that it's the revenue and brand image of the sport that becomes a bigger victim of this.

“Even a high-value property like the Indian Premier League could not brush off the angst of sponsors when hit by scandal,” said brand expert Harish Bijoor.

PepsiCo had sent a termination notice to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) citing issues relating to the governance of the IPL. The US group declined to comment on the document. In 2008, DLF, Indian's biggest real estate company, had paid a sum of Rs 200 crore (about $36.25 million) to own title rights for the first five years (2008-12) of the tournament. However, in August, the company decided not to renew its contract, forcing the BCCI to issue a new tender.

Similarly, a number of the sponsors — Coca-Cola, Kia, Adidas and Visa — have made concerns known about what is happening at FIFA, with the latter particularly issuing a vociferous warning that unless the global governing body makes changes, it would terminate the sponsorship.

Experts say that such untoward incidents can result in heavy loss of sponsorship for the event.

“Big brands naturally are very conscious about their image. They will not want to be associated with anything that remotely hints at corruption or scandal. Hence, administrators of such tournaments have to be careful regarding such incidents,” Bijoor added.

Stating that sponsorship is intricately connected to loyalty of fans, Hitesh Gosain, former senior vice-president at Percept Talent notes, “Sponsorship will keep flowing as long as fans have trust on the game; moment that is lost, it is not in the interest of either sponsors or broadcasters.”

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First Published: Wed, January 20 2016. 13:38 IST