After World Cup bite, Suarez’s sponsors bite back
The assailant in the bite witnessed around the world is finding himself in more than a lick of trouble.
Poker company 888 said on Wednesday that it is reviewing its sponsorship deal with Uruguay soccer player Luis Suarez after he allegedly bit Italian defender Giorgi Chiellini’s shoulder during a World Cup game Tuesday.
“Following the allegations made against Luis Suarez in regards to his behavior during Uruguay’s World Cup match against Italy, 888poker is seriously reviewing its relationship with the player as we will not tolerate any unsporting behavior,” the company said in a statement.
The Uruguayan, who plays for Liverpool in the English Premier League, became one of the company’s brand ambassadors just last month. Separately, FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Suarez.
Meanwhile, Suarez, who has a sponsorship deal with sports gear maker Adidas, may have trouble sinking his teeth into any more lucrative deals with them in the future, although the company played coy in its own statement ahead of FIFA’s decision.
“Adidas is aware of the issue involving Luis Suarez. We await FIFA’s full investigation into this matter and will respond accordingly,” the company said Wednesday.
“Before the World Cup Luis Suarez brand was recovering from his previous biting and racist abuse incidents. After the latest episode he has made himself toxic to clubs, fans and sponsors,” said David Haigh, the CEO of Brand Finance, a brand valuation consultancy firm based in the U.K., via email. “He brings brands into disrepute and however good his playing skills may be his personal brand will never recover. He is a PR disaster waiting to happen and has drastically reduced his personal brand value.”
Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert for the California advertising firm Baker Street, added that the Luis Suarez brand has “bit the dust.” He continued, “This is an athlete with serious issues, who cannot be trusted by his sponsors. And with major punishment likely, we may not be seeing him on a soccer pitch — World Cup or English Premier League — for quite a while.”
A ruling is expected to be announced ahead of Uruguay’s game against Colombia on Saturday. Suarez also found himself in trouble for pervious biting incidents both in 2010 and 2013.
Suarez’s brand debacle comes in light of numerous other high-profile athletes who lost endorsements due to foul play, including Tiger Woods after being found to have mistresses, Lance Armstrong for doping and Mike Tyson for being arrested numerous times throughout his career.