Many people are angry with Novak Djokovic. He may just wait for his patrons.
The world’s highest-ranked men’s tennis player is the number one and defending champion of the Australian Open. But it was unclear whether he could compete on Monday after Australian officials revoked his visa because he lacked a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving his lawyers to challenge his possible deportation.
The Serbian, known for his gluten-free diet and use of hyperbaric chambers, is not giving up the fight for his 21st Grand Slam title. It’s his chance to beat Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the men’s record holder – and every brand loves a winner.
So far, there is no indication that Djokovic’s sponsors, including French automaker Peugeot, clothing brand Lacoste and Swiss watchmaker Hublot, are planning to part with him.
He has endorsement deals worth $30 million, according to Forbes magazine, making him among the highest-paid athletes in the world. However, he’s never had the wide charisma of Federer, who earns three times the amount of endorsements despite losing his first crown years ago and being sidelined by injuries.
Federer’s clean, stern image, emphasized by his calm demeanor on the field, earned him the admiration of everyone from both fans and officials. Meanwhile, Djokovic is enjoying tumultuous moments like smashing his racket and facing the judges, which some brands might bet is a hit with fans.
There is a line, UK sports marketing consultant Tim Crowe, and one thing sponsors must determine is whether the athlete has acted illegally or unethically if they want to try to use the termination of bad behavior clause in the contract.
“That’s a nuance,” Crowe said in the case of Djokovic.
If he is allowed to play and wins, there will be less pressure on the sponsors to act.
“He will be rated as the most successful male player ever, and I think this provides a reason for sponsors to be more willing to take that risk and stay with the athlete,” said Seda Momko, professor of sports management at the university. New Haven.
Evaluating the public relations aspect is complex. Fan opinion about Djokovic is polarized. He is a national hero in his native Serbia. The Australians have mostly turned against him, Crowe said, but the world is more divided. If he had major healthcare companies as supporters, they might have different reactions than consumer product companies like watches or a car brand. And COVID-19 vaccines are themselves divisive.
What happened to Aaron Rodgers, the soccer player who contracted COVID-19 in November after misleading the NFL about his vaccination status, shows how different companies make assessments based on their brand values. It was dropped by a local healthcare company. But a major supporter, insurer State Farm, bolstered its ad positions back up after being briefly downsized, according to an analysis by Apex Marketing Group.
Some of Djokovic’s sponsors have tried to distance themselves from the situation and others, including Peugeot and Lacoste, have 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 #1 tennis player. “
Austrian bank Rafaisen said its decision to sign Djokovic on a multi-year partnership was made long before the recent headlines at the Australian Open.
“As the sponsor of Novak Djokovic, we are closely monitoring the current situation,” the bank said.
Sports fans justify the behavior of the athletes if they are fans – up to a point. It’s more serious if the violation is related to the actual performance of the sport, as in the doping scandal, or if it is a terrible criminal act that everyone agrees is wrong, said Americus Reed, professor of marketing at the university’s Wharton School. Pennsylvania.
Being against COVID-19 vaccines, or lying on the sheets, in our polarized world may not amount to rejecting an athlete’s contract for bad behavior. Millions of people around the world refuse to receive the vaccination, despite assurances from public health authorities that it is safe and effective.
“However, if you lose enough fans, you lose sponsors,” said Nicole Melton, a professor of sports management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Sponsors have made deals in the past due to drugs and criminal acts.
Nike, bike maker Trek and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch fired cyclist Lance Armstrong in 2012 as part of the fallout from the doping scandal. After tennis star Maria Sharapova failed a drug test in 2016, sponsors including Porsche, Nike and Swiss watch brand TAG Heuer abandoned her.
Two of the main sponsors of South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, Nike and eyeglass maker Oakley, have distanced themselves after he was accused in 2013 of fatally shooting his girlfriend.
For Djokovic, no sponsorship deals may now be resolved, Professor Momko said. But it may become a problem later.
“In the long run, if it becomes the public face of the anti-vaccination movement, I think that’s a problem,” she said.
However, I have noticed that athletic performance remains the ultimate draw.