All Black Aaron Smith's toilet tryst: Sponsors express disappointment

Aaron Smith has been sent packing from the South African tour and faces a misconduct hearing. Photo / Greg Bowker
Aaron Smith has been sent packing from the South African tour and faces a misconduct hearing. Photo / Greg Bowker

A marketing expert says fallout over All Black Aaron Smith's actions in a disabled toilet could spill over to sponsors.

Several brands associated with Smith and the team have expressed disappointment today at the latest scandal to rock the sport.

Evolve Marketing boss Brandon Wilcox believes any brands Smith had endorsed that related to good values would be most affected by his actions.

Smith has been sent packing from the South African tour and faces a misconduct hearing after being seen entering a disabled toilet at Christchurch Airport with a woman who was not his partner.

Witnesses say the pair spent about five to 10 minutes in the cubicle and it was obvious what they were doing in there by the noises they made.

Smith is associated with several sponsor brands, including Weet-Bix, My Food Bag and adidas.

Evolve Marketing boss Brandon Wilcox, told Fairfax the actions of celebrities reflected directly on brands they represented.

"If the [brand] ambassador screws up then it definitely casts a negative shadow over the brand."

My Food Bag, which pulled sponsorship from the Chiefs following the stripper scandal, would not confirm whether Smith was a brand ambassador.

However, in a statement the company's PR firm said: "This is new information and My Food Bag has not had the chance to discuss this with Aaron or his management, and have no comment during this time."

Smith has posted about My Food Bag on Twitter in the past.

All Blacks sponsor AIG issued a statement saying it remained "strong in our commitment to the All Blacks and all of our sponsored teams".

"We support the actions that New Zealand Rugby is taking to reinforce the high standards expected of their players."

Quentin Bleakley, the New Zealand country manager for major All Blacks sponsor adidas, told the Herald the recent series of off-field incidents were disappointing as they were negatively impacting rugby's image.

"Adidas has been the biggest sponsor of rugby in New Zealand since 1999 and we'll continue to support the work that NZR is doing to nurture the game and inspire people to get out there and give their all on the field.

"We're huge fans of the game and we're disappointed that there have been a number of incidents which are impacting negatively on rugby's image.

"It's a game which has given so much to New Zealand - and we're proud to be part of the success."

The company took its role as a good corporate citizen seriously and expected the highest standards from the people it worked with.

"While adidas acknowledges that people make mistakes, we believe they should be held accountable for their actions.

"We support NZR as they seek ways to improve player behaviour and player development. We also support all the work being done around Applaud to help referees and coaches.

Meanwhile, Sanitarium New Zealand, which owns Weet-Bix, told Fairfax the Smith incident was disappointing but "doesn't alter our support of the team".

"Sanitarium recognises NZ Rugby is working to ensure the professional game continues to meet the high standards of behaviour that's expected," executive general manager Pierre van Heerden said.

Sanitarium was a long-standing supporter of the All Blacks and had featured dozens of players on its packaging, he said.

- NZ Herald

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