Djokovic entangles sponsors in Australian Open vax uproar

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People are very angry with Novak Djokovic

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Many people are angry at Novak Djokovic. And its sponsors can just wait for it.

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Known for his gluten-free diet and use of hyperbaric chambers, the Serbian is not giving up the fight in search of his 21st Grand Slam. It’s their chance to overtake Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the men’s record holders – and every brand loves a winner.

So far, Djokovic’s sponsors, including French automaker Peugeot, clothing brand Lacoste and Swiss watchmaker Hublot, do not plan to drop him.

According to Forbes, he has endorsement deals worth $30 million, making him one of the highest paid athletes in the world. Still, he never found the wide appeal of Federer, who makes three times the amount from advertising despite losing his No. 1 crown years ago and being sidelined by injuries.

Federer’s clean image, which is underlined by his calm demeanor on the court, has won him near universal praise by fans and officials. Meanwhile, Djokovic has his brutal moments like breaking his racket and facing the referee, which may be some brand gamble that’s a hit with fans.

There is a line though, and one thing is for sponsors to determine whether an athlete has acted illegally or unethically if they want to attempt to use a bad behavior exit clause in a contract. said Tim Crowe, UK sports marketing consultant.

In Djokovic’s case, “it’s very finicky,” Crowe said.

If he is allowed to play, and wins, the pressure on the sponsors to act will be even less.

Seyda Mumku, professor of sports management at the university, said, “He will be labeled as the most successful male player of all time, and I think that provides a reason for sponsors to take that risk and keep up with the athlete.” Is.” of New Haven.

Assessing the public relations aspect is complicated. Fans’ opinion about Djokovic is polarized. He is a national hero in his native Serbia. Crowe said the Australians have mostly turned against him, but the rest of the world is more divided. If they had major health care companies as backers, they might have had different reactions than a consumer-products company such as a watch or auto brand. And the vaccines for COVID-19 are divisive in themselves.

What happened to Aaron Rodgers, a football player who got COVID-19 in November after misleading the NFL about his vaccination status, shows how different companies make assessments based on their brand values . He was fired by a local health care company. But according to an analysis by Apex Marketing Group, a major backer, insurer State Farm, increased its advertising spot back after being cut back briefly.

Some of Djokovic’s sponsors tried to distance themselves from the situation, and others, including Peugeot and Lacoste, declined requests for comment. But there was no indication that there were any plans to cut ties.

“Novak Djokovic is his own person,” said Swiss watch brand Hublot. We cannot comment on any of his personal decisions. Hublot will continue its partnership with the world’s No. 1 tennis player. ,

Austria’s Rafison Bank said the decision to sign Djokovic for a multi-year partnership was made long before the headlines of the recent Australian Open.

“As a sponsor of Novak Djokovic, we are closely monitoring the current situation,” the bank said.

Sports fans rationalize the behavior of athletes if they are fans – up to a point. Americas Reid, professor of marketing at the University’s Wharton School, said it is risky if a crime is linked to actual performance in the sport, such as in a doping scandal, or if it is a serious criminal act that people agree is wrong. Is. of Pennsylvania.

In our polarized world, being against COVID-19 vaccines or lying on paperwork, cannot rise to the level of ending an athlete’s contract of bad behavior. Millions of people around the world refuse vaccinations, despite assurances from public health officials that they are safe and effective.

Still, “if you lose enough fans, you’ll lose sponsors,” said Nicole Melton, a professor of sports management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Sponsors have pulled deals in the past because of performance drugs and criminal acts.

Nike, bike maker Trek and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch fired cyclist Lance Armstrong in 2012 as part of his exit from a doping scandal. Sponsors including Porsche, Nike and Swiss watch brand Tag Heuer quit after tennis star Maria Sharapova failed a drug test in 2016.

Nike and eyewear maker Oakley, the two major sponsors of South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, distanced themselves after being accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend in 2013.

Professor Mumku said that there is no longer a sponsor deal for Djokovic. But later it can become an issue.

“In the long term, if he becomes the public face of the anti-vaccination movement, I think that’s problematic,” she said.

Still, she notes that athletic performance remains the final draw.

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