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Should rights-owners make a moral judgement on potential sponsors? The Marketing Society Forum

The ECB has dismissed some sponsors within football as 'not appropriate' for English cricket.

YES - Mark Given, Head of sponsorship, O2

When a rights-holder signs a sponsor, it is saying to its most loyal customers: 'This is our new partner. We are happy for it to start a conversation with you.' The best sponsorship results come when both parties view it as a long-term relationship.

All relationships come with obligations, however. The sponsor needs to demonstrate it is adding value. At O2, within music, we challenge ourselves to enhance the experience before, during and after gigs at the venues we work with.

Equally, rights-holders have responsibilities. One is that, when they sign a new partner, they need to be happy to shout it from the rooftops. To do that, they need to have total confidence in every aspect of the partner's business.

YES - Tim Crow, Chief executive, Synergy Sponsorship

It's part of the rights-holders' duty of care, to the assets they manage and their stakeholders. If they fail to do due diligence on potential sponsors, the consequences can be disastrous, as the ECB - ironically, in this context - discovered when it leapt into a deal with the now-disgraced and incarcerated fraudster Allen Stanford.

What the ECB's statement also highlights are the discrepancies between different rights-owners' sponsorship policies. Formula One still allows Ferrari to endorse smoking, the Olympics accepts beer but not spirits, tennis is split over betting sponsorship, and so on. There's a distinct lack of consistency that illustrates how subjective these policies are.

YES - Martine Ainsworth-Wells, Founder and director, Ainsworth & Wells

Who we associate with has a direct impact on how we are perceived. The company we keep can enhance or devalue us. This is as true of brands and rights-holders as individuals. Sponsors - especially those with naming rights - are, in effect, being endorsed by the rights-holder, product or brand.

The brand is giving permission for its customers and fans to engage in the sponsor's product or service. They must consider whether this is appropriate and what situations might arise. Ask what is the worst thing that could happen to a fan or customer, then make a call. Short-term financial gain will not guarantee long-term financial security and could risk the future of your brand.

YES - David Atkinson, Managing partner, Space

Any brand needs to make a value judgement on the right connections with its audiences. Every rights-holder should calculate the elasticity of support and tension between its sponsorship property and all the people who buy in to it.

For the ambitions of the ECB to be realised over the next 10 years it will need serious levels of sponsorship. For it to make a stand against what it perceives to be inadequate fulfilment of its sponsorship criteria should be applauded, even if it means risking progress.


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