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Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production
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Why Suarez Sponsors Deserve a Bashing

02/07/2014
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CEO, The Americas at Brand Union, Toby Southgate on the ramifications for brands of the Uruguayan's bite

Another classic backfire. Brands choosing to align with talent don’t always do it for the right reasons. How much of a risk are you taking when dealing with delicate, sensitive, precocious, mercurial talent?

No question, Suarez is mightily talented. A young man with the sporting world at his feet, paid a fortune to do what he loves, and loved almost everywhere he goes.

But he has demonstrated, on several occasions now, behaviours that indicate immaturity and aggression at best, and mental fragility and damage at worst.

The example he sets is an appalling one. I have a three-year-old daughter who knows that biting is unacceptable, that the only thing that goes in her mouth is food and a toothbrush. So brands associated with Suarez become, overnight and not for the first time, figures of fun and mockery. They, too, should be embarrassed. In many ways, they deserve to be pilloried. I predict more fun-poking from oral care brands, dentistry practices, convenience food businesses…imagine what might happen at Halloween.

I wonder about Suarez himself – does the hubris of stardom provide a layer of insulation so dense that he feels he has done nothing wrong? Are his club, his country, his sponsors simply saying “don’t worry son, we’ll look after you”? Any degree of association at this point is damaging, and silence, or a holding statement around “pursuing lines of inquiry” or “waiting to speak with Luis in person” feels weak and non-committal. People like brands and organisations that act decisively, consistently and quickly.  

The brand that has succeeded is FIFA, in taking (comparatively) strong and relatively immediate action that made their position very clear. The fine is trivial and should in my opinion be much more severe, but the action is by most standards in the business of football (soccer), a strong one. If only others would follow.


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