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Soup of This Day #227: But Ain’t No Sunshine

August 8, 2012

Iranian Kilo Class submarine
The team knew something wasn’t right when their sponsors insisted on them travelling to away matches in a stealth submarine – Photo: Public Domain, 2005. Image cropped by Longworth72, who wants nothing to do with the Iranian military and thinks their submarine looks cack anyway.

The lyric in the title of this post is from the Bill Withers classic Ain’t No Sunshine. I heard a version sung by Octavius Womack yesterday and it’s been planted in my head ever since.

It’s important that I clarify that because the lyric has not a lot to do with this post. At least not on the surface – There may be something Freudian going on. While I try to analyse me about that just go ahead and assume that the song is referenced because it’s good and that Womack is all over it like single-malt whiskey on an ice-cube.

Smooth.

If this post had a meaningful title it would be ‘When Sponsorship Goes Bad.’ I did a google search for that as a song lyric – Nothing came up though and since I was humming Ain’t No Sunshine, I decided not to use the more accurate lead-off.

Also it’s worth noting that multi-million dollar sports rights deals don’t make for catchy song associations, at least not in my limited repertoire.

High finance is not humm-able.

Anyway the theme of this post is when sponsorship deals go wrong. This you see can happen easily – The sponsoring company are using a sporting outfit to advertise their brand. If the sporting outfit does something that isn’t seen to be a good thing, there can be a blow-on effect to the sponsor.

Take Liverpool FC for instance. Last season Luis Suárez was a tad bit racist towards an opposition player. This is a bad look for a club trying to globally market itself to millions of very diverse fans. It’s just as bad for the sponsor who is trying to insert itself into the minds of those millions of very diverse fans.

There’s an excellent chance that Liverpool’s sponsors would have been vocal at the time of the Suárez affair, mostly I’m a-guessin’, telling the club to take its medicine and shut the hell up.

I imagine that the club’s American owners weren’t wild about 1 of their players taunting an opponent by labelling him a ‘negro’ either.

A more ironic example occurred in the Australian Football League in March of 2005. At that time Richmond Football Club, the Tigers, were sponsored by their home state Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC), whose principle message’s were ‘Drink, Drive. Bloody Idiot’ and ‘Wipe off 5′.

The former is pretty self-explanatory, using simple terms for even the dumbest of people, while the later refers to dropping 5kmph from your speed.

Which probably makes it bemusing that Richmond youngster Jay Schultz was caught while driving under the influence of alcohol. The police noticed him because instead of wiping off 5, he’d tacked on 40.

Bloody idiot indeed.

Richmond fined him $5000 and the cops took away his licence. But it was too little and too late – The TAC dumped the Tigers by the roadside and asked them to walk home.

It’s not just the team that can disgrace the sponsors though. Sometimes the sponsor can do damage to the brand of the team.

We can go back to Liverpool for this. The Reds were the 1st English professional club to sign a deal to promote a sponsor via their playing kit. This was for Hitachi and saw that company’s name emblazoned across the famous red shirt from 1979. There followed similar arrangements with Crown Paints, Candy and from 1992, Danish brewer Carlsberg.

That latter deal lasted through until 2010, making it the longest such deal in England’s top level of football. It was not without it’s problems – In France, advertising of alcohol at sport events is banned, much as tobacco marketing is now absent from sporting events held pretty much everywhere else. This meant that on the occasions whereby Liverpool needed to play in France they had to play in a blank uniform, sans sponsors.

Somehow the home of champagne banning alcohol advertising seems a little surreal but there you go.

In spite of the French getting upset at Carlsberg, that is not the problem for Liverpool FC. Nope, that honour goes to the brand that replaced Carlsberg, British bank Standard Chartered.

Who have been doing funny stuff with money and Iran in alleged violation of US embargoes.

That doesn’t sound promising does it? It sounds a lot worse when you say it like this:

‘According to New York’s Department of Financial Services, Standard Chartered is a “rogue institution” that broke US law and exposed America’s banking system to terrorists, drug traffickers and corrupt states.’

Right then. Terrorists, drug traffickers and corrupt states – Not lot of moral ambiguity there. Perhaps we’re talking small sums of money?

‘The London-based Standard Chartered Bank has been branded as a “rogue institution” after allegedly hiding transactions valued at $US250 billion.’

Ok, they’re probably @#$%ed.

You might be like me and are wondering how this happened. Surely someone must have warned them at some point? Actually it seems a top US executive did try to point out that things were not going to end well. The response from London was not spectacularly supportive:

‘You @#$%ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians.’

Hmmmm… I think I see what they did wrong there. In sporting parlance, instead of playing the ball, they seem to have played the Axis of Evil.

They deny it of course and they may actually yet be found to have not done much wrong. Finance regulators, including those in the US, haven’t been covering themselves in glory across the past 10 years or so. Regardless the damage to their brand has been instant – Shares in Standard Chartered took a 6% hit on the London Stock Exchange today and there is talk of a big fine. Big as in north of $1 billion US.

Which is a fair bit more than it cost Fenway Sports Group (FSG) to buy Liverpool FC in late 2010. About £300m in case you were wondering.

It’s not just a shirt sponsor that Liverpool has though – A couple of weeks ago it was announced that Chevrolet were the Official Automotive Partner to the club. This announcement came in the middle of Liverpool’s North American tour, which made sense given that Chevrolet is a US car maker.

What didn’t make sense is that a week or so later Chevrolet was unveiled as Manchester United’s new shirt sponsor from 2014 through until 2021. This will cost the car maker $559m, which interestingly equates to £38m more than FSG paid for Liverpool FC.

Chevrolet could have just bought themselves a proper football team.

Now Manchester United aren’t quite the equivalent of Iran but to some of my fellow Liverpool fans they aren’t far off. This blog certainly categorises them squarely in the Sporting Axis of Evil, although I’ll stop short of calling for a targeted drone strike on Old Trafford.

Unless United tries to enrich weapons grade plutonium. That would be not on.

Either way, Chevrolet having a bet each way is at best tone-deaf.

You know whose tone is spot on?

Octavius Womack. And pretty much everyone else with Womack in their name. That version of Ain’t No Sunshine just won’t quit on me. It might just be worth buying.

And no I’m not saying that because he sponsors me. He doesn’t.

Although Longworth72 does need a theme tune…

But Ain’t No Sunshine

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