Top marks to the PR team at Zoopla, sponsors of Premier League side West Bromwich Albion, who have (probably) managed to earn a record number of column inches for a story about not renewing a shirt sponsorship.
The issue is with the club’s striker Nicolas Anelka, who made the “quenelle” gesture as part of his goal celebration against West Ham on 28 December 2013. The gesture is seen by some to have anti-semantic connotations, and is famously used by French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala. Anelka claims he was showing solidarity with his friend by performing the action. He’s been investigated by the Football Association, who could issue the striker with a five match ban.
While any footballer being charged for an offensive gesture is obviously big news in the sporting world, Zoopla has acted cannily to distance themselves from the club and have announced that they are ending their sponsorship agreement with the club at the end of the season. Two years ago they paid £3million and signed a two year contract – so while every newspaper has gleefully jumped on the ‘cancelled sponsorship’ bandwagon, the property company were under no obligation to continue their agreement next season anyway.
Zoopla have therefore seen their name banded about all over the world in association with the story, which sees them depicted as a no-nonsense company who don’t want their brand associated with anti-sematism. While this is no doubt true, they’ve earned a lot of coverage for what – to them – would otherwise be a non-story.
In a statement Zoopla said:
Zoopla has been reviewing its position over the past few weeks in light of the actions of striker Nicolas Anelka during the match against West Ham over the Christmas period.
The cleverly-worded statement avoids the issue of the two-year agreement reaching a conclusion, and instead lands all of the blame squarely at the feet of Anelka. The focus of the story has therefore shifted from being about the player’s actions to a company standing by their morals and ending a sponsorship agreement that was due to run out anyway. Very well played.