The Fallout Continues—Sponsors Jump Ship

In late 2014, Adidas, Nestle, Toyota, Canon, and Seiko were among the IAAF’s top sponsors. Adidas was contracted to an eleven-year sponsorship deal reportedly worth approximately $33 million and up to $8 million a year according to BBC sources. Additionally, Nestle was contracted through 2017 as the main sponsor of IAAF’s “Kids Athletics” program. Nestles five-year deal was reportedly worth almost 1$ million a year.  These two sponsorships represent a critical financial cornerstone for the IAAF and are arguably intrinsic to its long-term stability. 

Throughout 2015, the IAAF doping scandal began to fully take hold. Former President Diack, amongst a multitude of other key IAAF officials, had resigned and were facing corruption charges. Russian Athletics faced an indefinite suspension from all international competitions—including the 2016 Olympic Games. Additionally, former IAAF consultant—Papa Massata Diack, and former Russian officials—Valentin Balakhnichev and Alexei Melnikov all received permanent lifetime bans from the IAAF for their role in the doping scandal and “[conspiring] to ‘blackmail’ Shobukhova to cover up her doping violations by her paying them ‘bribes’ of about £435,000.”

This scandal not only cost the IAAF its public trust, but its financial stability. Due to the ongoing controversies, both Adidas and Nestle decided to terminate their sponsorship contracts. 

“[I am] Angered and dismayed by today’s kids’ athletics announcement. We will not accept it. It’s the kids who will suffer.”

Ending its sponsorship almost four years early, Adidas has directly pointed to the doping scandal as the ultimate motive. Although Adidas refused to issue an official statement, they did state—“Adidas has a clear anti-doping policy in place. Therefore, we are in close contact with the IAAF to learn more about their reform process.”

Following suite, Nestle officially terminated its contract with IAAF as the core sponsor for the Kids Athletics program. In a move prompted by nearly identical motives as Adidas, Nestle stated— “This decision was taken in light of negative publicity associated with allegations of corruption and doping in sport made against the IAAF”

IAAF President immediately voiced his outrage against this move by Nestle, stating— “[I am] Angered and dismayed by today’s kids’ athletics announcement. We will not accept it. It’s the kids who will suffer.” Another IAAF official speaking out about this decision stated—

“The IAAF think Nestlé’s claim is outrageous. If Nestlé was a sponsor of the IAAF itself that would be one thing, but to claim that there is reputational damage over the sponsorship of a kids’ programme is just crazy.”

Before ending their contract, Nestles sponsorship funded Kids Athletics—a program reaching “15 million children aged seven to 12 years old in 76 countries.”

Adidas and Nestle are currently the only two companies to end their IAAF sponsorship as a direct result of the doping scandal. Canon, whose contract runs until December 31st, 2016 stated— "We are disappointed by recent news reports of unethical behavior within the track and field world. We will carefully follow developments and look to the IAAF to respond swiftly and responsibly."

Canon has not publically announced their intentions following the expiration of their sponsorship contract.

With credibility at an all-time low for the IAAF, each sponsorship loss represents a critical blow for possible stability and future success. With the sport of track and field in a perpetual struggle to stay relevant and in the public sphere, the loss of sponsorship dollars will continue to hurt.

As this scandal continues to be revealed and the magnitude of its consequences are officially presented, we can only continue to watch—anticipating, hoping for a return to clean athletics and a standard for fair competition.

References

BBC Athletics. (2016, January 25). Adidas to end IAAF sponsorship deal early in wake of doping crisis. Retrieved from BBC Sport Athletics: http://www.bbc.com/sport/athletics/35385415

BBC Athletics. (2016, January 7). Life bans for three athletics figures over alleged doping cover-up. Retrieved from BBC Sport Athletics: http://www.bbc.com/sport/athletics/35249955

Bloom, B. (2016, February 10). Nestle terminate sponsorship programme with IAAF over doping and corruption scandals. Retrieved from The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/athletics/12151134/Nestle-terminate-sponsorship-programme-with-IAAF-over-doping-and-corruption-scandals.html

Boulden, J. (2015, November 10). Russian athletics throws up new headache for sport sponsors. Retrieved from CNN Money: http://money.cnn.com/2015/11/09/news/russia-doping-athletics-iaaf-sponsors/

Ingle, S. (2016, February 10). Nestlé pulls out of IAAF sponsorship deal over public-image concerns. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/feb/10/nestle-iaaf-sponship

Phillips, M. (2016, January 25). Scandal prompts Adidas to cut short IAAF sponsor deal: BBC. Retrieved from Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-athletics-corruption-adidas-idUSKCN0V30UY

Yahoo Sports. (2016, January 25). Canon intends to honour IAAF contract. Retrieved from Yahoo Sports: https://uk.sports.yahoo.com/news/canon-intends-honour-iaaf-contract-153500380.html