Premier League club Sunderland shirt sponsor Invest in Africa is reviewing its relationship with the club, amid claims that "the appointment of Manager Paolo Di Canio could alienate thousands of fans," according to John Reynolds of MARKETING MAGAZINE. Invest in Africa signed a one-year deal in '12 and is "reviewing whether or not to renew its sponsorship." Sport sponsorship experts believe the appointment of Di Canio, whose political views have caused controversy, will be "a huge factor in its decision to renew the deal." Brandrapport Managing Dir Andy Kenny said, "What is apparent is Di Canio's appointment has caused a media stir, and as a sponsor it can bring your brand into focus...As a sponsor you can be tarnished by a partnership with an organization whose brand and judgement is being questioned, but it's also important to ensure that you don't get caught up in the media frenzy." (MARKETING MAGAZINE, 4/2). In London, Andy James wrote Invest in Africa refused to discuss the effect Di Canio's appointment could have on the sponsorship deal when contacted, but a spokesperson said, "It (Di Canio's position) is a football-related matter and under the remit of the club" (DAILY MAIL, 4/2).
A NEW PARTNERSHIP: In London, Sam Munnery wrote Di Canio met Monday with an exec from the Nelson Mandela Foundation, "with which Sunderland has struck a new partnership that sits well alongside its relationship with Invest in Africa." The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory CEO Sello Hatang said that the partnership with the club is a commitment to "human rights and anti-racism" before adding, "Sunderland reaffirmed its commitment to these values" (LONDON TIMES, 4/2). REUTERS' Toby Davis wrote Di Canio described the controversy over his appointment as "ridiculous and pathetic" and refused to answer questions about whether he held fascist beliefs in his first news conference on Tuesday. Di Canio: "I don't have to answer any more this question, there was a very good statement from the club, (with) very, very clear words that came out from me" (REUTERS, 4/2).
CONTROVERSIAL PAST: The BBC reported Di Canio "has talked in the past of his fascist views." He is reported to have said in an interview with Italian news agency Ansa in '05 that his straight arm salute when playing for Lazio was aimed at "my people," who he defines as members of Benito Mussolini's fascist movement and "was not intended to incite racial hatred." Sunderland insist claims Di Canio has racist or fascist sympathies are insulting to both the "integrity of the club" and its new manager (BBC, 4/2). In London Mark Ogden reported a Facebook site has been set up with the title “Sunderland Against Fascist Di Canio,” and "a petition calling for the manager’s removal has been started by supporters." However, a poll on a fans’ website, which generated more than 650 responses, shows "approximately 60 per cent in support of Di Canio" (TELEGRAPH, 4/2).