Why Zoopla was right to show West Brom the Red Card

Zoopla disclosed its intentions this week following alleged antisemitic gestures from Premier League ace Nicolas Anelka on the pitch over the festive period.

Merrin, who is Managing Director of London-based PR firm Spreckley Partners, said: “Zoopla actually moved faster than was expected to confirm that it will not renew its sponsorship and limit any damage to its brand.

It could have toughed it out or downplayed the situation but this would have ended in an insurmountable number of questions from the press and the need for even further damage control. By drawing the line under what could have ended up a very complicated situation, Zoopla’s move has highlighted that too many other brands have become submissive to their ambassadors’ behaviours.

“Anelka’s unacceptable actions have tainted both the existing deal – which runs until the end of the season – but the club, and the FA, too, with the latter deciding to charge the player. But it does also show just how complicated sponsorships have become, as have other recent controversies. Take Newcastle United’s striker Papa Cisse’s decision not to wear the club strip bearing the sponsor Wonga’s logo, due to his religious beliefs over money lending. Or even Britney Spears being caught with a Coke can when she was paid millions of dollars to promote Pepsi. It’s a minefield,” he commented.

Merrin questioned: “So we have to ask, how much sway should a sponsor hold over a club, or brand ambassador? Will we get to the position where sponsors are dictating squad selection based upon the types of players that represent their brand in the best way? Because as we’ve seen, one player’s careless actions can now result in huge financial and reputational consequences for the business, often in the region of millions of pounds.”

“Sponsorship deals are now hugely complicated affairs, especially when it concerns someone in the public eye. With the huge amount of money being invested by companies they have to be sure that there are no negative implications. Celebrities and footballers alike have to be aware that their actions now have a much wider and more significant impact than ever before. Essentially, brands like Zoopla only have one option when things go wrong, and in this instance it was the right one,” Merrin concluded.