Big sponsorship news today is that, according to reports, Adidas is withdrawing its sponsorship of the World athletics governing body IAAF, because of the recent doping scandals. That’s quite interesting. Adidas, who are the first name on IAAF’s list of global partners, appear to have broken their ties three years before their fixed term contract expires. What’s more interesting is that this is the same Adidas who still sponsor FIFA to the tune of much larger sums, despite the fact that most of FIFA’s executive committee is either under arrest or under investigation for corruption. How damning is that? IAAF is now a more toxic brand than FIFA. Wow. That’s damning.
It does give an insight into what it is the sponsor is actually buying with these partnerships. The difference here is that FIFA may have become a byword for malpractice, but football itself is still a hugely attractive proposition. Nobody supported their team any less enthusiastically this weekend because of the governing body falling ever further into disrepute. In contrast the doping scandal in athletics calls the sport itself into question. If your favourite athlete won a medal at the last Olympics or World Championships, you may now be wondering whether that was actually legitimate – or was it drug-fuelled? Some athletes are calling for their performances to be upgraded retrospectively because they were beaten in major championships by ‘drug cheats’ – even though the cheating only came to light later. It’s all up in the air.
Add to that the fact that athletics is nowhere near as attractive as a commercial proposition as football, in any case, and you can see why Adidas has concluded the positives no longer outweigh the negatives to justify a marketing investment.
What a tragedy after the sport was in the ascendancy after the fabulous London Olympics in 2012. Lord Coe, the new President of the IAAF, will need all his powers of resilience to get back into credit. For the moment, the future looks bleak.