Former Aussie captain Steve Smith is still an ambassador for the New Balance brand – for the time being. And it appears that former vice-captain David Warner is still representing Gray-Nicolls bats on behalf of GN Sports in Australia – a separate entity to Grays International, which supplies our local Gray-Nicolls bats, says Grays marketing director Richard Gray.
“New Balance will not be a making public statement until we have taken time to consider today’s announcement (by Steve Smith that he accepts responsibility for the ball tampering scandal and that he will not be appealing his year-long ban – ed),” Stephen Roach, Senior Sports Marketing Manager of New Balance International said on Wednesday.
In October last year the brand ended England all-rounder and former vice-captain Ben Stokes’ contract worth £200 000 after he was involved in a fight outside a Bristol pub and mimicked a handicapped boy on video. At the time they said: “New Balance does not condone behaviour by our global athletes that does not match our brand culture and values.”
We had been unable to get a response from GN Sports, but yesterday (Thursday) Warner still prominently featured as a player on their website. According to Australian media sources he is on a $500 000 per year contract with the Australian sports company.
Youngster Cameron Bancroft has, however, been suspended as a member of Team Kookaburra during his 9-month ban from representing Australia after the Supersport team caught him on camera tampering with the ball… with the resulting fall-out.
“Like all cricket fans Kookaburra was shocked at the events during the Cape Town test,” the brand said in response to our question whether they would continue to sponsor him. “We have put faith in the CA (Cricket Australia) investigation as best placed to judge the individuals involved in the incident and the appropriate sanctions. Kookaburra, in accordance with its contract, is suspending Cameron Bancroft for the duration of his CA suspension. We hope to support Cameron continuing his career after this time.”
Warner has been identified as the instigator of the plan to tell team rookie Bancroft to apply sandpaper to the ball during the third test at Newlands. Smith admitted that he knew about it beforehand. All three players had accepted the sentences imposed by CA by yesterday – a year-long suspension from international and domestic Australian cricket for the two captains and a 9-month ban for Bancroft, plus 100 hours of voluntary service each in community (club) cricket.
The shockwaves created by the pre-meditated and conspiratorial nature of the leadership group’s decision to get Bancroft to apply sandpaper to the ball, then all of them lying about it, resulted in far-reaching financial implications for them.
Brands often refer to sponsored athletes as “brand ambassadors”, emphasising that the sponsored athlete is a representative of the brand’s values.
ASICS therefore immediately dropped Warner and Bancroft as footwear ambassadors because “the decisions and actions taken by David Warner and Cameron Bancroft are not something that ASICS tolerates and are contrary to the values the company stands for,” it said in a statement.
The CEO of the team’s main sponsor, investment firm Magellan Financial Group, agreed, because “these recent events are so inconsistent with our values that we are left with no option but to terminate our ongoing partnership with Cricket Australia.”
Both Smith and Warner will be barred from playing for their IPL teams, where they were each on $2.5-m contracts. But, they may play English county cricket.
In addition, Warner will lose his LG sponsorship, which expires soon. Smith has been dropped as ambassador by Weet-Bix and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
ASICS, Weet-Bix and the Commonwealth Bank, however, continue their sponsorships of Cricket Australia. KFC, Toyota, Qantas, Accenture, Specsavers, insurer Bupa and Lion also opted to retain the Australian cricket team as ambassadors following fast and furious action by Cricket Australia.
But, not everybody agrees with these sponsors that Cricket Australia showed good leadership for taking fast action. There are many who agree with outspoken Skins chairman Jaime Fuller when he writes in his Water-Cooler column that “the culture of the playing group is one thing. But as anyone knows, culture starts at the top, and Cricket Australia Board and management is where such an investigation and wholesale change to its culture has to start. The culture in the playing group didn’t just happen by itself.”
He continues further on: “(Chairman David) Peever, his Board and Sutherland MUST accept responsibility for their roles in creating the toxic environment that has existed for quite some time.”