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English soccer club Norwich City is ending its jersey partnership with gambling company BK8 after just five days, following outcry from fans about the group’s ads that feature scantily-clad young women.
Norwich said in a statement Thursday that while it “anticipated some negative responses” to the partnership, it was terminating the deal immediately. It apologized to anyone who was offended.
“As a self-financed club there is always a fine balance between generating the revenue levels required to help maintain that model, whilst working within our visions and values,” Norwich City COO Ben Kensell said in a statement. “On this occasion, we made an error of judgment. Our standards were not at the levels we demand of our football club.”
The one-year deal, reportedly worth about $7 million (£5 million) was announced on June 5 and immediately began drawing criticism, both of the company’s industry and the nature of its marketing. Fans bristled at BK8’s repeated use of sexual innuendo, skimpy outfits and suggestive behavior in its ads and products, including an offering called “sexy Baccarat” and videos of suggestive hot dog eating. BK8 is registered in Malta but geared toward markets in Asia.
A handful of different Canaries supporters groups united to issue a statement condemning the deal. “Our football club does not support or endorse degrading or upsetting images not in keeping with our values as an inclusive, community club,” the groups said. (A request for comment sent through the company’s online chat function wasn’t immediately returned.)
This is not the first time a team has been forced to unwind a commercial partnership following backlash from supporters. Scrutiny is most intense on the jersey partnerships—typically the most valuable piece of club inventory—because that corporate logo also appears on the jerseys purchased and worn by fans.
In the U.K., gaming operators have become a critical part of the sponsorship ecosystem. Nearly half of the teams in the Premier League last season had an operator’s logo on the front of their jerseys, and because of the global popularity of the league, some of those companies have no presence whatsoever in the U.K. or even in Europe. The U.K. government is considering a ban on gambling logos on soccer jerseys moving forward.
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