Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Beau Geste in the World Cup

Today's FT revealed I am way behind on salacious World Cup stories. Credit Agricole, Quick (a burger chain), and Pringles have all pulled advertising because of dissension on the team, including a strike by the French players. (Insert your own joke here.)

But as funny as that is (and it is), here's what I took away from it: advertisers are not only willing but anxious to find a reason to pull advertising on sports. The economy is that bad that even sinking money into our modern day opiate isn't getting it done.

Crédit Agricole shows French World Cup team the red card

By Roger Blitz and Richard Lapper in Bloemfontein and,Peggy Hollinger in Paris

Published: June 22 2010 03:00 | Last updated: June 22 2010 03:00

France's World Cup campaign, crippled by dire performances on the pitch, internal strife and a players' strike, went from bad to worse yesterday when Crédit Agricole pulled an advertising campaign and sponsors demanded action by the country's football authorities.

The French bank said it had stopped the advertising campaign - due to run until June 25 - early "in view of the current controversy surrounding the French national team".

The team's corporate sponsors have held conference calls to voice their anger at the players' refusal to train.

One person who took part in the calls said that the sponsors believed the situation was "unacceptable".

France are on the verge of elimination from the tournament, their 2-0 defeat to Mexico on Friday forcing tension between management and players into the open. The French play South Africa in their final group game tonight.

The crisis and the behaviour of the national team has triggered an avalanche of public criticism in France. President Nicolas Sarkozy has demanded representatives of the players and the football federation meet with sports minister Roselyne Bachelot to restore calm.

It has highlighted, too, the sometimes fragile relationship between teams, players and their sponsors - graphically illustrated in the past year by sponsors deserting US golfer Tiger Woods over revelations about his private life.

The team's management sent home striker Nicolas Anelka for verbally abusing coach Raymond Domenech during half-time in the Mexico game, a move that led to the team's refusal to train on Sunday in protest. Jean-Louis Valentin resigned as team director in disgust at the players' behaviour.

Quick, the French burger chain, and Pringles the crisp brand owned by Procter & Gamble, have also pulled ad campaigns involving Mr Anelka.

The French debacle has led to sponsors working collectively to demand immediate action by the French Football Federation. Sponsorship and TV rights of the French national team are worth €70m, according to Les Echos. The team sponsors are retailer Carrefour, utility provider GDF Suez, Crédit Agricole, SFR, the telecoms company, and sports goods maker Adidas.

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