Athletics: IAAF battles to keep sponsors amid Adidas defection report

Shareholders of Adidas Group are silhouetted in front of the company logo before the annual shareholder meeting in Fuerth near Nuremberg.
Shareholders of Adidas Group are silhouetted in front of the company logo before the annual shareholder meeting in Fuerth near Nuremberg.PHOTO: REUTERS

MONACO (AFP) - The IAAF on Monday acknowledged a battle to convince sponsors that it is confronting doping and corruption scandals amidst reports it has already lost Adidas as a backer.

The BBC said that the German sportswear giant is to end its multi-million dollar backing of the governing body four years early because of the doping scandal that has hit track and field.

Contacted on Monday, an Adidas spokeswoman neither confirmed nor denied the BBC report but stressed that the company was "opposed to doping in any form".

She said: "We are therefore in close contact with IAAF to learn more about the reform process.

An International Association of Athletics Federations spokesman said: "The IAAF is in close contact with all its sponsors and partners as we embark on our reform process.

The federation got one sign of backing from Dentsu, the Japanese media giant which has the marketing and licensing rights to IAAF events.

The IAAF and Dentsu Inc "are in close and regular contact on all commercial matters and as part of such communication Dentsu's Executive Officer Kiyoshi Nakamura has expressed that 'we have full confidence in the new leadership of the IAAF and the reform process being led by current IAAF president Sebastian Coe'," said an IAAF statement.

"'The IAAF world athletics series remains an important property within Dentsu's global sports business portfolio'," Nakamura was quoted as saying.

Coe went to Tokyo in December to meet Dentsu and key sponsors and Nakamura said his presentation was "extremely well received".

However the BBC said Adidas has told the IAAF it was withdrawing from its agreement after a World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) report published in November which detailed claims of "state sponsored doping" within Russia.

A second report released this month said "corruption was embedded" within the IAAF under former president Lamine Diack, now facing criminal charges in France.

That, the BBC said, led Adidas to terminate its agreement, with officials at the company telling the IAAF of its decision this week.

According to the BBC, Adidas believes the doping revelations constitute a breach of its agreement with the IAAF.

Adidas' 11-year sponsorship deal was signed in 2008 and was due to run until 2019.

At the time it was agreed, the deal was reported to be worth US$33 million (S$47.17 million). But the BBC, citing anonymous sources, said the figure was worth about US$8 million this year alone.

On those figures, the projected lost revenue for the IAAF over the next four years will be US$30 million.

Adidas' move will add to the pressure on Coe, who succeeded Diack in August, having been one of his vice-presidents for seven years.

Senior management at Adidas have also voiced their concerns at the corruption surrounding FIFA, although the company remains a commercial partner of football's scandal-tainted governing body.