‘A PR disaster’: Premier League club Norwich left red-faced after fans spot new shirt sponsors’ adult content and sexual innuendos
The runaway winners of second tier the Championship last season drew criticism from some supporters after announcing a new deal with BK8, a firm which describes itself as "Asia’s leading online betting agency" and "one of the biggest and most trusted platforms" in its sphere.
Officials at the club, which is majority-owned by British celebrity chef Delia Smith, are said to have "worked swiftly" to remove racey posts from the Instagram page run by the company, which featured images of scantily clad women wearing branded clothing.
A Norwich spokesperson said the club was aware of the "marketing posts" before BK8 later issued a "wholehearted" apology for "any offence caused by our historical marketing".
Norwich have named gambling company BK8 as their new main sponsor.Their Instagram page is... interesting... pic.twitter.com/QGJKNn3VpY— The Second Tier (@secondtierpod) June 7, 2021
"We accept that this form of marketing isn't befitting of a Premier League partnership," BK8 said.
"We have immediately removed all marketing material of this nature and will conduct a review of our marketing strategy moving forward."
While adult content had already been removed from one of BK8's accounts on Instagram, supporters discovered similar material across other social media accounts featuring women in revealing outfits, as well as a YouTube channel which features females carrying out activities on shows hosted by male presenters featuring clear sexual innuendos.
"Within an hour of the sponsorship being announced, Norwich fans have done more background checks then the whole club," one unimpressed reader responded. "Shambles."
"Norwich have had a shocker," said another. "I have no issues with a betting company, but their online profile is so sleazy and embarrassing."
Norwich have just released this statement on behalf of new sponsors BK8.We'll have more on this story on tonight's @itvanglia (East) - including reaction from angry fans.Safe to say majority of #ncfc supporters (quite rightly) aren't impressed with today's developments. pic.twitter.com/2vAN1ZpuWL— Andy Ward (@AndyWardITV) June 7, 2021
On a bumper day of action that many fans were disappointed with, Norwich, who spent a single season in the top flight before being relegated to the Championship again in 2020, sold star player Emiliano Buendia to Premier League rivals Aston Villa for a fee of around $56 million including add-ons.
"So today we confirmed we sold our best player and announced a new shirt sponsor with an Asian betting firm with 200 twitter followers and an Instagram page that is basically soft porn," quipped one disgruntled member of the Canaries faithful, capturing the mood.
"It's not even midday."
Robin Sainty, the chair of the Canaries Trust, confirmed that his members had sent numerous pieces of negative feedback over a "PR disaster".
"It has not gone down well at all, no question about that," he told the Pink Un.
Hi @NorwichCityFC, I've been consuming the social media output of the club's new principle sponsor today. Can you confirm, yes or no, will the next Norwich Women's team kit incorporate BK8's favoured tit window motif? pic.twitter.com/M5KGpPfk2R— Newly Anonymised MB Account (@MathieuBarthez) June 7, 2021
"A lot of people are opposed to gambling firms and sponsors but I think the key issue in this one is obviously the Instagram account.
"I do not tie it in with the club's community image that they have been looking to create, or have created. It just seems to be a PR disaster.
"It's difficult to say, from a layman's perspective, how it can be reversed without breaking the contract.
"It is a messy situation for everyone and upsetting for female fans seeing some of the content on the Instagram account.
"It's just really bad timing with the atmosphere around the club being toxic because of the Emi Buendia transfer, and then this comes in almost simultaneously, which has made an awkward situation even more awkward."
I’m honestly staggered this was never looked at and dealt with prior to this. A two min search would have surfaced these posts as an issue. Incredible lack of due diligence and undermines the perception of a well run family club.— James Bigg (@JamesBigg) June 7, 2021
Natasha Harpley, who is a district councilor for Sprowston in Norfolk, said: "The club should have looked into it. Do your research.
"Younger people are so used to sexualized images of women on Instagram and young girls are exploited for their sexuality.
"It does not mean us oldies are prudes. It is not being [conservative activist] Mary Whitehouse and clutching our pearls.
"It is not right that women's bodies are being used to sell things.
"What kind of message do they think this is sending? It's a club that prides itself on being family friendly and its Kicks programme.
"We are now seeing massive problems with sexual harassment in schools."
Speaking when the deal was announced, Norwich chief operating officer Ben Kensell accepted BK8 was a "new brand for City fans" and called them "a well-trusted name across Asia."
"The Premier League has an accumulative TV audience of over three billion and is broadcast into over a billion homes – a huge proportion of these Premier League fans are based in Asia.
Ben Kensell couldn't even pronounce "reputable" when proudly announcing BK8 as our new sponsor, which kind of says it all. We are always being told how we "do different" to other clubs, so how come no one saw this as an issue at a respectful, community club? #ncfc— Richard Balls (@RichardBalls) June 7, 2021
“Supporting BK8 in marketing to this global Premier League fanbase equally affords us as a club the opportunity to further our own exposure and commercial efforts into those markets.
“Both the club and BK8 are committed to supporting the ongoing review into betting and sports sponsorship.
"The club continues to adhere to both an internal code of conduct, as well as the policies and guidelines put in place by the Betting & Gaming Council, when carrying out marketing campaigns with betting and gaming brands.
“The industry continues to provide a valuable source of revenue to the club that makes a meaningful difference to our wider objectives as a club.”
So, @NorwichCityFC I've supported you since I was 10, mainly because of my aunt and my mum. I've always been so proud of how inclusive and friendly we are. We do different. Today, with BK8, you've made me feel deeply uncomfortable, unwelcome and sad. Please reconsider now. #ncfc— Cat Prior-Holt (@CatLHolt) June 7, 2021
City legend Darren Eadie, who has joined BK8 as its brand spokesperson, said the brand "shares the club’s aspiration to seek continuous improvement."
"It is the undying desire to achieve greater heights in an unforgiving environment that brought us together. We’re all really looking forward to the season ahead with Norwich City back where they belong, in the top-flight.”
His enthusiasm was echoed by BK8 chief Salauddin Sinnakandu, who is said to have been the key figure behind the deal.
“The synergy between the two brands and the voracious appetite to engage the supporters in Asia meant it was a no brainer to bring them together," he said, adding that the alliance would "help build activation programs in the region for both brands.”
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