Sports Marketing: Air Canada To Cancel NHL Sponsorship Due To “Health Issues”?
Air Canada, one of the NHL’s largest financial corporate backers, has threatened to withdraw its sponsorship if the league doesn’t take “immediate” and “serious” action to reduce blows to the heads of its players. Denis Vandal, Air Canada’s director of marketing/communications, has written a letter to the league’s six governors and commissioner Gary Bettman to express concern over recent incidents (Tuesday night’s) of headshots and concussions. Zdeno Chara, a defenceman of the Boston Bruins checked Montreal’s Max Pacioretty into a glass partition near the player benches at the Bell Centre. The hit knocked him unconscious and fractured a vertebra. There was no punishment for Chara –he was given a five minute penalty during the game. Vandal noted the controversial issue is becoming bad for Air Canada’s brand and wrote “From a corporate social responsibility standpoint, it is becoming increasingly difficult to associate our brand with sports events which could lead to serious and irresponsible accidents; action must be taken by the NHL before we are encountered with a fatality. Unless the NHL takes immediate action with serious suspension to the players in question to curtail these life-threatening injuries, Air Canada will withdraw its sponsorship of hockey.” The issue is being raised while two other large Canadian brands –Molson and Labatt–are fighting over league beer sponsorship rights. Molson was recently announced as the sponsor to the tune of $375 million, but Labatt is claiming they have legal rights to that position.