Sponsorship and sandpaper gate

In early 2018 Australian cricket went into meltdown. Just a few weeks after easily defeating England in the ashes, Australia playing against South Africa were caught in the middle of a storm that nobody could have predicted.

Cameron Bancroft was caught on multiple camera angles ball tampering. The captain, Steve Smith later admitted that a senior leadership group had orchestrated the illegal move. With little or no remorse at the time, Smith thought the problem would blow over. It didn’t, it did the opposite. Steadily worsening, Smith and David Warner found themselves sobbing in front of the national press. However, this late show of remorse for their actions, whether genuine or not, couldn’t stop the gathering momentum of media and public outcry at their actions.

Within days the inevitable happened, they were banned for 12 months from playing state and national level cricket while their pockets also took a major hit. One after another, sponsors came out cancelling their partnerships with Bancroft, Smith and Warner, leaving their bank accounts millions emptier.

The list of companies was long. Asics severed their deals with Bancroft and Warner. Sanitarium, a health food company, and Commonwealth Bank dumped Smith while LG, the Korean tech giant, severed ties with Warner. While Kookaburra, a sportswear manufacturer, suspended their agreement with Bancroft for the duration of his ban with Cricket Australia.

The IPL, a professional league in India, also banned Warner and Smith from competing in the 2018 season, contracts that would have been worth over $2 million dollars to each player.

It was not only the players who found themselves losing money. Magellan Financial Group cancelled their agreement to naming rights of the Australian test matches after just one year into a three-year deal. Worth $20 million to Cricket Australia, the deal was terminated with the usual statement from a corporate sponsor indicating the breaching of shared values and reputation.

Some larger sponsors did stick by Cricket Australia though, Qantas will continue to sponsor the association seeing CA’s dealing of the situation as suitable in the eyes of Alan Joyce, the CEO and other members of their boardroom.

For these three sportsmen, their lives will have changed nearly irreversibly since the fateful day in early 2018. If you are a top-level sportsman, remember the eyes of several cameras are watching you and it may not be your career on the line but your sponsorship deals too.

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