The Serbian, known for his gluten-free diet and use of hyperbaric chambers, isn’t giving up the fight to seek his 21st Grand Slam. It’s his chance to overtake Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the men’s recordholder and every brand loves a winner.
A many individuals are angry at Novak Djokovic. Also his sponsors may simply endure it. The world’s highest level men’s tennis player is the top seed and defending champ at the Australian Open. Yet, it’s hazy assuming he can contend Monday after Australian officials again disavowed his visa since he lacks a COVID-19 vaccine, passing on his attorneys to pursue his possible deportation. Up to this point, there’s no sign Djokovic’s sponsors, including French automaker Peugeot, clothing brand Lacoste and Swiss watch creator Hublot, plan to drop him.
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He has $30 million worth of endorsement deals, according to Forbes, making him among the highest-paid athletes in the world. Still, he has never had the broad appeal of Federer, who makes triple the amount from endorsements despite losing his No. 1 crown years ago and being sidelined with injuries.
Federer’s squeaky clean image, underscored by his calm demeanour on court, has won him near universal adoration by fans and officials.
Djokovic, meanwhile, has his brash moments like smashing his racquet and confronting referees, which some brands may be gambling is a hit with fans.
There is a line though, and one thing sponsors have to determine is whether an athlete acted illegally or immorally if they want to try to use a bad behaviour exit clause in a contract, said Tim Crow, a U.K. sports marketing consultant.
In Djokovic’s case, that’s pretty nuanced, Crow said.
If he’s allowed to play, and wins, there will be even less pressure for sponsors to act.
“He will be labeled as the most successful male player of all time, and I think that provides a reason for sponsors to be more willing to take that risk and remain with the athlete,” said Ceyda Mumcu, professor of sports management at the University of New Haven. Assessing the public relations aspect is complex. Fan opinion around Djokovic is polarized. He’s a national hero in his native Serbia.
Australians have mostly turned against him, but the rest of the world is more divided, Crow said. If he had major health care companies as backers, they might have different reactions than a consumer-products company like a watch or auto brand. And COVID-19 vaccines are themselves divisive. What happened to Aaron Rodgers, the football player who got COVID-19 in November after misleading the NFL about his vaccination status, illustrates how different companies make assessments based on their brand values.
He was dropped by a local health care company company. But a major backer, insurer State Farm, ramped his ad spots back up after briefly cutting back, according to an analysis by Apex Marketing Group. Some of Djokovic’s sponsors tried to distance themselves from the situation and others, including Peugeot and Lacoste, declined requests for comment. But there was no sign any planned to cut ties.
“Novak Djokovic is his own person,” Swiss watch brand Hublot said. “We cannot comment on any of his personal decisions. Hublot will continue its partnership with the world number 1 tennis player.”
Austria’s Raffeissen Bank said its decision to sign Djokovic to a multiyear partnership was made long before the recent Australian Open headlines. “As Novak Djokovic’s sponsor, we are closely observing the current situation,” the bank said.
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