Given the appearance of a photo today of triumphant Manchester United players riding in a Manchester City branded taxi, we’re asking to what extent should sportspeople be brand ambassadors? Yes, it was only a taxi, and no real harm was done, but should a group of Manchester United players have thought about the potential consequences of being photographed in a cab branded in the colours of their Noisy Neighbours? Or perhaps more significantly, the colours of Etihad, their sponsors?
Etihad were quick to put the ad out, and fair play to them. No real harm was done to anyone, but a bit of cheap publicity brings about a question. Shouldn’t footballers earning significant salaries think before they act? What do Turkish Airlines (MUFC’s airline partner) think of giving free publicity to a competitor?
We have experience of motorsport industry marketing and sponsorship, where overall (no pun intended) people are very much more conscious of things like this. To offer a parallel, there’s absolutely no way Mercedes-Benz would allow Lewis Hamilton to be photographed in anything other than their product (or product from their family of brands). Tellingly, we bet Lewis would be well aware of that and very conscious not to let something like that happen in the first place.
You can argue that F1 is a very commercially driven sport, and you’d be right. You only have to watch the pre-podium footage after a Grand Prix where the relevant sponsors watches and caps are put on as religiously as a set of tyres at a pitstop. But these days, football’s not exactly amateur hour where sponsorship and money is concerned, is it? Perhaps football teams need to invest some of the money they generate in giving the players some media training and an awareness of the damage their actions can (even unwittingly) do to the brands they represent. Or is that taking things too far?
A final note: This blog has been written as a genuine comment and in no way part of the author’s therapy as a City fan seeing the title slip across Manchester. Apparently… ;-)