Marketing and Sponsorship

Australian Open sponsor Kia expresses support for mandatory vaccines

The Australian Open’s major sponsor, Kia, has "issued a strong statement supporting mandatory vaccinations for all tennis players competing in the January event," according to Snowden & Baxendale of THE AUSTRALIAN. This comes "amid confusion about whether players who choose not to get vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed into Australia and permitted to play in the grand slam if they agree to complete two weeks of hotel quarantine." Kia Australia CEO Damien Meredith said in a statement, "Tennis Australia has an excellent relationship with all levels of government and Kia believes there will be a suitable outcome in regard to all involved during the Australian Open.” Hours later, Meredith supplied a revised comment: “Kia Australia believes double vaccination is very important but isn’t taking a stance on whether or not players should be allowed to play. This is a decision for TA and the relevant government and health authorities.” Kia’s sponsorship is "reportedly" worth US$17M a year. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday maintained "his hard-line stance that players who were not inoculated should not be allowed into the country." When asked if unvaccinated players "should be permitted to enter Australia," Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said that "risks posed by unvaccinated people could be mitigated." Snowden & Baxendale write the "lack of clarity about arrangements for tennis players has forced Kooyong Classic organisers to cancel the tournament for a second year running" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 10/26).

A TOUGH ASK: Tennis Channel’s Paul Annacone said it is “still tough” if players have to travel to Australia and then “for 14 days sit in a hotel and not go anywhere and then start up and try to get ready.” Tennis Channel’s Tracy Austin said unvaccinated players “could arrive really early” in Australia to quarantine and then have time to practice, but it “will be two different lanes of players, the vaccinated and unvaccinated, how well-prepared they are.” Tennis Channel’s Steve Weissman: “One other thing they could do is get vaccinated.” Annacone said Australian Open organizers "are going to do everything they can to get the best field that they can get," but the “No. 1 theme is that it’s getting easier, it’s getting more lenient to be there." Annacone: "But then what do you do with the unvaccinated players? And that’s going to be the big predicament” (“Tennis Channel Live,” 10/25).

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