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Why brands now approach sports sponsorship with caution

Andy Sutherden
By Andy Sutherden  //  Thu 23rd May 2013
It is true that until recent times, any PR agency that dared venture ‘what if (this goes horribly wrong)?’ to the client was at best considered something of the grim reaper and at worst fired on the spot. But we live in a world where companies have to build and fiercely protect positive brand reputation. They also need to be honest enough to own up to any wrong doing, thanks to the ample speed with which communications travel.

The methods via which a crisis is reported may be less ‘traditional’ these days – social media is almost always the channel that breaks bad news  - but the basic rules of crisis comms still apply.  Brands should be honest and authentic whether issuing a statement, talking to journalists or communicating via Facebook or Twitter. If you make a mistake, it’s best to hold up your hands, admit fault and be open with how you’re going to deal with the ongoing situation. 

When the bombs exploded in Boston for example, the story broke first on Twitter, thanks to the current era of citizen journalism, with runners and members of the public taking to the video app Vine to post clips of the immediate aftermath. 
The Boston Marathon used its Facebook page to communicate the news and as the story continued to develop, even the Boston Police Department used Twitter to communicate injury and safety updates. Most media outlets tweeted the breaking news, knowing it would be shared immediately. 

At the end of the day, crisis comms is all about mitigation and damage control. A sponsorship that is meant to bring positive association and ultimately drive sales can have the opposite effect unless the 'what if?' questions are not addressed from the outset. The responsible sponsorship brands have every scenario under control and not under the rug. 

View Hill and Knowlton's website here
Why brands now approach sports sponsorship with caution
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