Racism, homophobia & apathy: the sports stars ruining their own reputations & how sponsors can respond

The below snippet is from B&T's article 'Racism, homophobia & apathy: the sports stars ruining their own reputations & how sponsors can respond'.

Over the last few months, there has been no shortage of controversy surrounding some of the biggest sporting stars in the world, from Sam Kerr’s racism allegations to Spencer Leniu taking a significant ban for a racist comment against a fellow player on the field. The allegations leave brands scrambling to make major calls often before a trial can be played out in a court of law.

In the last week, controversy has swirled around South Sydney Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell after he copped a multi-match ban for two separate incidents on the field. The star was also handed a slap on the wrist a few weeks back when he dropped multiple f-bombs in a post-match interview with Triple M. Many are calling for the player to be more permanently sidelined, with many claiming he doesn’t care enough about the game to continue to have the right to play it. These allegations put hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of brand endorsements, including Ringers Western and Bluetti, at risk.

Controversy has also surrounded Port Adelaide forward Jeremy Finlays, who allegedly flung a homophobic slur at an Essendon player in last Friday’s match. While Finlayson apologised for the incident, AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon promised that the forward would be held accountable for the slur that was picked up on the umpire’s mic.

Director of Reputation, Mark Forbes, was invited to comment.

Brands endorse a player or team with the hope that they will represent it with the utmost integrity, so what happens when this goes wrong? According to Mark Forbes, Director of Reputation at Icon Agency, a major scandal can erase the marketing and brand benefits of a high-profile sports sponsorship.

“A media and social media pile-on can cause customer, stakeholder and internal reputational damage and impact sales. This is especially true of ‘purpose-driven’ companies which have adopted brand values such as condemning racism and supporting diversity,” he said.

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