Tensions have been high within the Formula One community after a racially insensitive tweet last week alluding to Presidential elect Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall between the Mexico U.S. border: “Mexicans, put on these sunglasses so your swollen eyes can’t be seen during tomorrow’s building of the wall.”
While racially insensitive tweets can likely be found with the ranks of fans from every sport, this one emanated from the sunglass brand Hawkers (@HawkersMX), which sponsors Mexican Formula One driver Sergio Perez. The tweet cost them their sponsorship, with Perez releasing this statement: “What a bad commentary. Today I am ending my relations with @HawkerMX. “I will never let anyone laugh at my country.”
Adding insult to injury, the Hawker’s brand was in the process of manufacturing near 20,000 sponsored sunglasses with Sergio’s name printed on them, w
hen Sergio decided to part ways. (Yahoo Sports)
Public controversy that leads to a loss in sponsorship for the athlete is nothing new: Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and Ryan Lochte captured much of this attention in recent years. But how many athletes or rights holders can you recall firing their sponsor for breaking morals clauses? Can you think of any?
Performance Research founders Jed Pearsall and Bill Doyle discussed issues similar to these at IEG’s 31st Annual Sponsorship Conference
in 2014, Taking a Stand– How Consumers React When Sponsorship Turns Into Criticism And Controversy. Our main message: Sponsors and rights holders should be never afraid to take a stand for what’s right.
To be successful, sponsorships must be authentic partnerships with shared goals and values. Sergio Perez’s separation from Hawkers sends the right message, and in an industry that is focused on big money deals, places human values as the higher currency.