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If Your Company Sponsors Anyone Or Anything, Are You Prepared For The Associated Reputation Risks?

May 16, 2022

A brand ambassador for your organisation who makes the news for his anti-vaxxing stance. The celebrity face and voice for your product or service, who is going viral after allegations of domestic violence surface on Twitter. The sports stadium bearing your company’s name, but where the sports team or sports code concerned is now in the midst of a major governance scandal. The cultural event strongly associated with your brand, where one of the headline acts is now trending for their alleged homophobic comments.


These are just a few real-life synopses of the kinds of issues that are increasingly creating reputational headaches for any organisation that, for example, sponsors events, organisations or individuals, or has brand ambassadors or influencers on their payroll.


It is for this reason that a leading financial services company recently approached Aprio Credence to develop a sponsorship-related issue management “playbook” to help guide the company through a range of possible reputational challenges linked to sponsorships, brand ambassadors and company endorsements.


As with Aprio Credence’s playbooks for other high risk/high impact sources of risk – from cyber breaches and workplace fatalities to employee/executive misconduct and kidnapping for ransom – our sponsorship playbook provides practical decision-making and communication resources for the crisis leadership team should they ever face a sponsorship-related reputational crisis.


The playbook complements two other sponsorship-related resources that we believe every organisation should have in place: a solid sponsorship policy, and robust sponsorship legal contracts. These should include include termination clauses that will allow you to exit a sponsorship agreement if the contracted party brings your company into disrepute as a result of their conduct or comments.


We’ve researched more than 80 South African and international sponsorship controversies to help shape the content for the playbook, which spans a range of potential sources of sponsorship risk, and includes, inter alia, checklists of communication and crisis leadership considerations and actions, stakeholder universes, first response template messaging, media statements and social media guidelines for each category of reputational risk.


“In recent months we have seen a global auditing firm severing ties with the winner of six golfing majors after controversial comments made by the golfer in a media interview, a high-profile event sponsor faced with the tragic death of one of the competitors at the event, through to a prominent brand ambassador losing a sponsorship after she was pictured in social media drinking a competitor’s brand,” says Esme Arendse, CEO and partner at Aprio Credence. “Our sponsorship playbook is part of a suite of crisis leadership resources we offer clients, but we strongly believe it’s a resource that every enterprise should consider to build reputational resilience for when your brand integrity is entrusted to external, sponsored third-parties.”


To find out more Aprio Credence’s service offering and our sponsorship playbook, please contact Esme Arendse on esme@aprio.co.za or Alan Arguile on alan@aprio.co.za

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