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SBD Global/December 4, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

British Diver Tom Daley's Announcement He Is Gay Unlikely To Impact Marketability

British diver Tom Daley's marketability may not be impacted by his sexuality.
British diver Tom Daley Monday announced he is in a gay relationship, and brandRapport Sports Marketing Dir Nigel Currie "doubted whether Daley’s high earning potential would be harmed at all," according to Simon Hart of the London TELEGRAPH. Currie said, "I think it may, in some shape or form, actually improve his marketability because of what he has done and the way he handled it." Currie added, "We live in a modern world and sponsors and brands in general are much more flexible and broad in their views nowadays. In a world where companies are very conscious of their image and their social responsibility, I think they want to appear to appeal to as broad a spectrum as possible, and from that point of view they are not going to let things get in the way that might have been barriers in the past." However, Hart notes Australian diver Matt Mitcham's "experience of being a gay athlete has not always been positive." Mitcham in previous interviews has "revealed that his sexuality has been proved a major impediment to attracting corporate sponsors" (TELEGRAPH, 12/3). Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree, who came out as gay in '11, said of Daley's announcement, "This will make no difference with tolerant and progressive companies in this country. But if those countries have an international presence, there is pressure from eastern Europe to not sponsor gay people. I can't prove I lost sponsors, but deals that were agreed suddenly disappeared" (BBC, 12/2).

IN HIS OWN WORDS: In London, Mark Borkowski opined on the GUARDIAN's Media Blog that Daley was "wise and brave" to tell his story on "his own time and in his own words." Borkowski wrote, "He got there first and delivered his message without innuendo and showed us how great is the value of honesty." For brands these days, "authenticity is vital." If "there is one strain of conventional wisdom pervading every single brand, it's the importance of differentiation." And these days, "exceptions rule." By revealing his sexuality via YouTube, Daley exhibited "an impressive example of strategic control." Daley "demonstrates why celebrity brands must quickly embrace transparency in an open and candid way." Modern PR is "not simply paid intermediaries to broker a message." The entertainment world "has made a lot of mistakes, but it's greatest weapon has always been the power to get ahead of all the issues that can derail a promotional bandwagon." Businesses "should learn from Daley." In a world "defined by issues of trust and corporate transparency, differentiation in its real sense is not a tactic." It is "just a new mindset that comes from listening and absorbing, in order to emerge further forwards." Courage "is required to move into a space that might prove disruptive." But "we have to learn to be brave -- great stories rarely emerge from a timid culture" (GUARDIAN, 12/3).
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