John Terry and Sponsors – How the online media are telling the story

by Stephen O'Leary on 04/02/10

In December, we reported on the coverage Tiger Woods and his sponsors received following the revelations about his private life.

Two months later, and a new sporting scandal has emerged. On Friday, 29th January 2010, the High Court in London lifting a gagging order which had banned reports about John Terry’s alleged affair with an England team-mate’s (Wayne Bridge) ex-girlfriend (Vanessa Perroncel).

As the captain of both Chelsea FC and England, Terry is no stranger to publicity and media attention. The graph below looks at the coverage Terry has received over the past three months, on a week by week basis.

On average, over 1,000 articles are published online each week mentioning Terry, and for the most part, they relate to his on-field performances. However, as the graph above illustrates, the coverage increased dramatically when the injunction was lifted. To highlight the spike, the graph below looks at the coverage over a more condensed period – the last 10 days – on a day-by-day basis.

In this case, the lifting of the injunction, and it’s effect on media coverage, is much more obvious – the sudden peak begins on the day after the injunction is lifted, as not only the sports press, but the mainstream media begin to report on the alleged affair.

Terry wasn’t the only person involved in this story. Wayne Bridge, would have also seen a spike in his coverage over the same period, as it was his ex-girlfriend that Terry is alleged to have had an affair with. Terry’s wife, Toni, England manager Fabio Capello and Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti will all have featured extensively in the coverage of the story.

And yet, only one person has really seen their profile rise from literally nothing to overnight celebrity. Vanessa Perroncel, the ex-girlfriend of Bridge, and the lady at the center of the Terry affair was a relative unknown up until last week. Her profile in the online media has sky rocketed, and you can expect the graph below to continue in the same direction next week as she plans on selling her story to the highest bidder.

And finally, what of Terry’s sponsors. There are definite comparisons with the Tiger Woods story, as sponsors associated with the star are considering their options. The Guardian reports that sponsors are looking more to Capello than Terry when making their decision. And here is the crucial difference between Woods and Terry – team sport.

Tiger’s off-course troubles have certainly had an impact on not only his sponsors but the game of golf itself. However, he competes alone. Terry is the captain of both Chelsea and England, and as a result, the potential sponsorship fallout from his alleged affair could impact both teams.

The reason Capello is so important is that he decides who plays for England, and more importantly, who captains them. Nationwide have had a long association with the English FA, and have been the England team sponsor since 1999, according to their website. The use of the England captain, whoever that may be, in advertising and endorsement opportunities would be a major part of any sponsorship agreement. And yet if Terry continues in that role, how can Nationwide be expected to use his image in a positive light?

Chelsea’s team sponsor, Samsung, are another company who may look to change their association with the player, according to another Guardian article. However, based on the media coverage of the major sponsors, it is Umbro, with whom Terry has a lucrative boot deal, that are getting the most coverage from the recent revelations. The pie chart below is based on the results of a search for four key sponsors associated with Terry – Nationwide (England Team), Samsung (Chelsea Team), Umbro (Terry’s boots) and finally Pro Evolution (a computer game in which Terry features prominently).

When the dust settles, and it will as soon as the tabloids have had their exclusive story with Ms Perroncel, the media coverage will return to a level of normality. In a few months time, sadly, another professional sports person will probably appear under similar headlines, and the inevitable comparisons with Woods and Terry will again emerge. Corporate sponsors are becoming more and more weary of sports stars and their images. Only time will tell what the true financial cost to both Terry, and his teams, will be.

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