Maybe—after 24 years in PR—it’s not too pretentious of me to say that I do understand how the press works and I’m familiar with the concept of how sports and media are interdependent. I also understand that their current relationship offers a living to many who are involved, including the players themselves, the tournament organisers, and to thousands, maybe tens of thousands of others. Tennis is a business, and to paraphrase Shakespeare “all the world of tennis is a stage and all men and women merely players”. In that sense those in the game are fully aware that they are part of a business, and are participating in a multi-billion dollar show.
What I don’t understand, though, is why we are not able to accept that the world, the role of companies and especially that of the press, has radically changed. Rafael Nadal has 11 million followers on Instagram. He is fully able to communicate his personal struggles and successes directly with them. Why do we think that the task of sport reporters is to bring us the personal stories behind the events, especially when their coverage torments the very people they are reporting about? Is it normal for a part of the press to make a living out of portraying high performance individuals when they suffer? To show that they are as lamentable mortals as any of us?
Who needs this? Today if you are interested in any celebrity's life, even their private life, you can just check social media and get the information in a second. Celebrities have taken back control over their public image—and even when they have to deal with bullies on social media, the control is in their hands on their own channels. Shouldn't we be happy about that?
And what should I make of the great tournament organiser, who instead of applauding this change, encourages the media to produce personal stories instead of serious sport reporting? Who finds nothing wrong in putting its most valuable partners—the players—in situations where the sole purpose is to get them out of their comfort zone, when they are already mentally and physically exhausted by the tournament? Shouldn’t the world’s prime tennis advocate protect its players and publicise the beauty of this most graceful yet exciting game and not the personal stories and tragedies behind it?
Those organisations (and firms) for whom business logic takes precedence over common human values, over the wellbeing of their members and partners, whose mission is purely profit oriented, are simply outdated. We—society, consumers, the audience—expect companies and organisations to become value driven (just check the recently released Havas Meaningful Brands Report 2021, according to which 73% of consumers say that brands must act now for the good of society and the planet).
We are fighting a global pandemic during which we regularly tell each other: “Take care of yourself.” Yes, let’s take care of ourselves, and each other, because that’s what makes the world a good place to be. It’s our job. It’s time for companies and organisations to realise how important this is.
That’s why I stand with Naomi.
Zsofia Balatoni is chief strategy officer at Rothman & Roman
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