A rumour arose in European athletics circles February 2019 that Belgian heptathlon athlete, Nafissatou Thiam, had been threatened with suspension by the Royal Belgian Athletics Federation because she did not visibly wear the logo of national sponsor during the European Championship in Berlin where she won a gold medal. This was allegedly under pressure of main sponsor Tempo-Team, part of Randstad Group, for not complying with sponsorship rules. UPR was asked to support the company’s crisis communication in order to safeguard Tempo-Team’s reputation as a responsible, honest company and a major sponsor of Belgian athletics. Our objectives were twofold: we had to clarify the role and involvement of Tempo-Team in the incident, without compromising their relationship with the Royal Belgian Athletics Federation or the athletes and causing further escalation; and we had to showcase Tempo-Team’s goodwill to resolve issues regarding sponsorship without creating the impression that the company is taking advantage of the crisis.
After carefully establishing and checking all the facts surrounding the Thiam case in depth, we prepared a comprehensive crisis communication strategy for earned and owned media. This strategy successfully contained the crisis and clarified Tempo-Team’s role in the incident by stressing that it did not put pressure on the Royal Belgian Athletics Federation nor on any athlete as such action does not fit their corporate values. For this purpose, we also provided our client with the necessary written and oral statements and supported Tempo-Team’s spokesperson with responses to media questions. We also continuously monitored all media and social media to identify potential issues threatening the company’s reputation around the issue in order to respond swiftly in any such eventuality. After clearing Tempo-Team’s name and safeguarding their reputation, we used the crisis as an opportunity to position Tempo-Team as a trustworthy and loyal partner of Belgian athletes. Tempo-Team made this real through an initiative to provide additional bonuses for medal-winning athletes. By creating the necessary content for our communication touchpoints, Tempo-Team was able to recover from the crisis and subsequently used it to support its reputation and awareness.
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