Adidas terminates its IAAF sponsorship amid doping scandal but sports marketing industry alludes to other reasons

Adidas

The doping scandal has influenced the brand's decision to cut ties with the IAAF however some sports marketing analysts believe that Adidas may have already been looking for a way out.

Adidas has decided to terminate its sponsorship with the IAAF four years early as it looks to distance itself from the doping scandal sweeping the sport but industry analysts suggest the decision may not have been a "moral" one.

The sportswear giant is the biggest sponsor of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and was due to remain so until 2019 after it signed an 11 year deal in 2008, reportedly worth £23m ($33m).

However the BBC has reported that Adidas informed the IAAF of its decision to terminate the relationship which is understood to be a direct result of the doping scandal which has overwhelmed the sport.

Adidas have remained pensive about the sponsorship since the detailed claims of “state sponsored doping” were unveiled by an independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) in November. Shortly after the news broke, Adidas informed the IAAF that it was considering cutting short the deal.

The final straw, however, came just days after a second damning report from the commission’s chairman, Dick Pound, who revealed that "corruption was embedded" within the IAAF under former president Lamine Diack.

The BBC reported that Adidas believes that the doping revelations in the two reports constitute a breach of contract and so is walking away.

An Adidas spokesperson told The Drum: "As you know adidas has a clear anti-doping policy in place. Therefore, we are in close contact with the IAAF to learn more about their reform process."

Lord Coe, the IAAF president, has come under mounting pressure as of late after the report claimed that leading figures in the organisation must have been aware of the corruption.

He will be increasingly concerned that Adidas’ departure could pave the way for more of its official partners to follow such Canon, Toyota, Seiko, TDK, TBS and Mondo.

Jacques De Cock, faculty member of London School of Marketing, believes that the news is “likely to further undermine the IAAF as a worthwhile vehicle for sponsorship”.

“Opportunities to see the brand has been limited. The other brand sponsors did get their names on numbers but Adidas was virtually invisible on the media produced,” said Jacques.

He argued that Adidas “probably found very little impact on sales or brand recognition from its association with IAAF” and added that it was “possible that they are not prioritising professional athletic wear as this is not the big growth segment.”

The company's commitment to scandal ridden Fifa on the otherhand is “very different," says Jacques because “football is more important as a segment than athletics for Adidas."

This is due to the fact that competition is "more important for general visibility and Fifa controls brands a little better although individual player and national associations have their own sponsorships.

Nick Meakin, business development director at Pitch, also alluded to the possibility that Adidas's departure was influenced by its focus on football.

He said that "until they go public with the reasons behind the termination, there will be strong speculation that the decision is not a moral one."

Meakin points out that "the current marketing value and impact of track and field is dwarfed by the ongoing growth of the football market."

He concluded that the brand's costly sponsorship agreements, such as its Manchester United kit deal, has resulted in it "cutting budgets for other sports and the IAAF look to be the latest to be affected by this streamlining.”

Adidas, which recently announced Kasper Rorsted as its new chief executive, has also been vocal about its displeasure with the corruption scandals surrounding Fifa, leading to speculation over its long standing relationship with football's governing body.

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