Ian Monk: Football sponsors need reassuring

Was there ever a more contrived photo-call than the embarrassing dressing room dance routines performed to camera by Chelsea's FA Cup winning team?

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

The same players who horrified sponsors just weeks earlier by snarling and swearing at a global TV audience after a Champions League exit they blamed on the referee. The abuse they poured on him made a mockery of football's prime CSR offering, its Respect campaign.

The image of the players and a club that is typically unloved beyond its own fanbase certainly needed a boost. But this 'only dance when you're winning' routine probably wasn't it. The players were joined by their 60-something Dutch manager Guus Hiddink and owner Roman Abramovich - the puppet on the strings of his own image makers.

The execution was seriously awry. But the thinking behind it - that Chelsea in particular and football in general need to pay urgent attention to the image into which sponsors and corporates buy - was spot on.

In a way, Chelsea's danse macabre summed up the stresses of a season that saw recession test to the limit the relationship between the game and its commercial partners. Who could forget the embarrassment of West Ham's hastily hand-stitched patches covering the logos of broke shirt sponsors XL? The relegation of Newcastle seemed almost a logical consequence of carrying the sponsorship badge of the stricken Northern Rock. Future ownership of both West Ham and Newcastle is uncertain.

Champions Manchester United blazed their glory trails behind the logo of AIG. Yet so embarrassed was the American insurance giant by its losses it shunned corporate hospitality at the Champions League Final.

With so many major sponsors sidelined, new entrants to expensive brand-building through an association with a club will be looking minutely at ROI. The perception of the club and the game into which they are buying will be paramount.

Image makers will need to produce more than a song and a dance to reassure them.


Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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