Who does your company associate with?

And what does it say about you and your brand?

formula one car driving at high speed on empty road - motion blur

We’ve all heard the mantra that it’s not what you say but what you do that’s important. In the world of sponsorship and business partnerships, the people and organisations with whom you associate says a lot more than what you have written down on the corporate social responsibility page of your website. Take a couple of recent examples in the world of sport – what does this say about the companies involved and their brand?

Formula 1

The European Grand Prix is being held for the first time in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The official Formula 1 website proudly trumpets the new street circuit, but fails to mention that its hosts are anything but as squeaky clean as the inside of the Mclaren factory. To quote Wikipedia:

Although Azerbaijan has held several elections since regaining its independence and it has many of the formal institutions of democracy, it remains classified as “not free” (on border with “partly free”) by Freedom House.[116][117] In recent years, large numbers of Azerbaijani journalists, bloggers, lawyers, human rights activists have been rounded up and jailed for their criticism of President Aliyev and government authorities.[118] A resolution adopted by the European Parliament in September 2015 described Azerbaijan as “having suffered the greatest decline in democratic governance in all of Eurasia over the past ten years,” noting as well that its dialogue with the country on human rights has “not made any substantial progress.”

Anyone who follows Formula 1 will not be surprised that its boss Bernie Ecclestone isn’t bothered by things like this. But what about the teams? Do Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams et al think it is alright to associate themselves with this type of regime? What does this say about their brands?


Earlier this year, Maria Sharapova was found guilty of taking performance-enhancing drugs. She cheated. Of course we can argue whether or not she did it intentionally or not, but in terms of protecting one’s brand (and disassocating the business from cheating and corruption in sport) , Tag Heuer’s ending of their relationship with her seems both sensible and principled. Nike, Head and Evian’s decision to stick with her suggests they are more concerned with profit than principle. In a world where so many members of the general public associate business with a lack of principles, how sensible is this?


Obviously in the world of small business the stakes might not be so high (or the cars/first serves as powerful). But the principle remains the same (there we go again, principle!) Do you have clients, suppliers or associates whose business practices are questionable? ELK works with small and medium sized businesses who (as far as we’re aware) don’t have the sort of sponsorship budgets which global sports manufacturers benefit from. But small businesses still need to be authentic and to base their activities on sound principles as much as multinationals. Whilst our brands might not have high-street recognition, they still resonate amongst our business network, so are worth protecting just as much.

Brand is much more than just a logo – it’s who you are, what you do and how you communicate with the outside world. Give ELK a call if you’d like to have a chat.