EXCLUSIVE: Sport will soon return to the back pages and advertisers will still pay a premium to be there. That's the consensus view in the immediate aftermath of the Australian Crime Commission's report into drugs and crime in sport.
The report suggested use of banned steroids is rife across codes. It said that organised crime syndicates may be supplying the drugs and thereby gaining more influence to fix matches.
Government and heads of sport bodies vowed to take tough action, root out offenders and clean up the codes. If that action includes naming and shaming - and a classified version of the report has been circulated to authorities - there may be implications for brand partnerships with individuals and individual clubs.
But for big sponsors, it's still game on. There is "no change" in terms of IMG's sponsorship deals according to MD for Australia, Martin Jolly. He said that strong action should be taken and examples made of guilty parties but "it will be an interesting few weeks and then things will return to normal".
He said a drawn out affair, akin to that damaging cycling in the wake of doping revelations, was in nobody's interest. In that sense "maybe the timing [of the report] is not coincidental" he said.
Anthony Fitzgerald, Ceo at the Multi Channel Network (MCN) said there had been "no direct negative feedback at all" from sponsors in the wake of code-gate. "When the first balls bounce on Friday night it's game on" he said."The focus will very quickly be back on the game."
"For us it is business as usual," he told AdNews. "I don't see any negative rub off on broadcast sponsors. We see codes continuing to do very well across the platforms and delivering what sponsors want: lots of eyeballs."
Sean Nicholls, MD Octagon Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand said the market needed to see more detail. Sponsors may "seek reassurances" from their partners, he said but for now it was "way too early" to call.
He said there were possible short term impacts, but not in the longer term. "Sport is so entrenched in the Australian psyche that no matter what comes out of the report, it will still be there." It was a case of cleaning up and moving on, he added.
If, down the track, when proper detail emerge from the report, individuals and individual clubs are implicated, there could be "a significant impact" on them in terms of sponsorship, he suggested. Rather than seeking to claim damages or money back from individuals, brands would then have the right to terminate agreements, Nicholls added.
Nicholls agreed that the fact that the heads of codes and everybody involved in the ACC's investigation had managed to keep it quiet - given the closeness of media and sport - suggested they had come up with an action plan.
Fundamentally, he said "sport is too big a part of our lives" to be derailed by whatever comes out of the investigation. While some firms may "sit up and take a look" at some partnerships, "brands want to align with sport."
A Hyundai spokesman was reluctant to comment on the report and its sponsorship implications. However, he told AdNews that Hyundai was "watching developments closely, not only how it affects the A-League but its affects across the entire sporting landscape in Australia".
The company took sports sponsorship very seriously, was all about fair play, and believed that use of performance-enhancing substances "has no place in any sport, football included".
Ultimately though, the company said it trusted "that any measures put in place will protect the integrity of Australian sport in the future".
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