E-Cigarettes – An ethical sponsor?

I’m sure by now everyone is familiar with the vaping phenomenon sweeping the globe and the E-Cigarette companies sprouting up at every corner. These are classed as a ‘healthy’ alternative to cigarettes and studies show both sides of the argument as to whether this is a true statement or not.

The large majority of rights holders, predominantly in the sporting sector, have a strict ‘No Tobacco’ sponsorship policy which is completely understandable. There is no link to tobacco and sporting performance and it is detrimental to the image of the club. Not to mention that any marketing of tobacco in the UK, and many countries around the world, is strictly prohibited.

However, E-Cigarettes and Vape brands are increasing their marketing and venturing into the sponsorship space as there are currently no laws in place saying they can’t.

St. Helens, the stalwart of English Rugby League, has recently announced its new Title and Stadium Naming Rights sponsor, leading e-cigarette brand ‘Totally Wicked’. Apart from the slightly odd naming of the stadium, which is now the ‘Totally Wicked Stadium’, it is interesting to see how the club has announced their new Title Sponsor.

In the press release St. Helens have said the e-cigarette brand contributes ‘not only financially, but also in supporting our wider health objectives’. They then go on to mention that they ‘have been able to create a supportive and vape friendly atmosphere at the club and believe the new deal will further their pioneering work by not only helping to raise awareness yet further of the damage smoking tobacco can do [but] also in deterring people from taking on the habit in the first place’.

It is proven E-Cigarettes are a much better alternative to smoking, but they are still addictive and contain nicotine. Whether you agree with this statement or not, it is interesting to see how from a PR perspective a controversial sponsor can be presented in a positive light.

The decision on whether a specific category of brand can become a sponsor or not is down to the rights holder or the governing body. In this case, St. Helens have simply secured a sponsor which will inject revenue into the club without breaking any rules, credit to them. It will, however, be interesting to see if more teams start to announce similar partnerships or if the league steps in to stop any similar controversial sponsors.