Thierry Henry brand 'not irreversibly damaged', say sports PR experts

Sports PR experts believe the Thierry Henry brand will not be affected, despite a growing backlash against his handball which destroyed the Republic of Ireland's World Cup hopes earlier this week.

Under fire: Thierry Henry
Under fire: Thierry Henry

The Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen waded into the row yesterday to support the Football Association of Ireland's appeal for a replay of Ireland's World Cup play-off against France.
 
Today's papers have reported that the French football authorities have defied calls to replay the controversial match.
 
However, despite the negative press, Synergy Sponsorship director of comms Stephanie Branston said: ‘The Thierry Henry brand is not irreversibly damaged. His value to sponsors will not suffer in the long-term although I would not envisage too many Irish companies beating down the door of Henry's agent this week offering brand endorsements.'
 
She added: ‘As a role model to millions and a footballer who was widely perceived to demonstrate true sporting values, his biggest crime was missing the opportunity to right a wrong and show genuine sportsmanship on the pitch immediately after the incident. His reputation may forever be tarnished on public record by that decision but his commercial value, as one of the most dazzling players of his generation, will hold firm.'
 
The sports pages of the national papers have all led with the story for a second day running. The Guardian also featured the story on the front page with the headline: ‘Hands-on Henry becomes public enemy numéro un.'
 
Threepipe co-founder Eddie May concurred with Branston and said: ‘Thierry Henry has had a reputation of being one of the most sporting players. He has a good reputation in England as a fair player and a nice guy. His image and brand will not be affected in the long-term. He doesn't play in England now and it will quickly be forgotten.'
 
Gillette has vowed to stand by its sponsorship of the star following the controversy. Brand communications manager of Procter & Gamble grooming James Nunn told PRWeek: ‘We are distanced from what happens on the pitch. We are not in a position to comment on refereeing decisions and they allowed the goal to stand.'

UPDATE: Reebok has also confirmed to PRWeek that it will be sticking by the footballer. Reebok vice president global sports marketing Todd Krinsky said: 'Reebok has a successful, long standing sponsorship of Thierry Henry and we continue to support him.'

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