Although an overzealous desire to win has always led to some unsavoury incidents, broadly speaking sport used to be about fair competition. Not anymore.
If diving in football, match fixing in cricket, drug taking in a number of sports and “Bloodgate” in rugby, previously held up as an example to other sports, wasn’t enough, Formula One has now trumped the lot.
Caring not a jot for the safety of drivers, marshals or spectators, nor for the integrity of the sport itself, Renault instructed one of its drivers, Nelson Piquet Jr, to crash on purpose at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix to help Fernando Alsonso win the race.
Take a look. Piquet even does a nice practice spin in the warm up!
If that wasn’t enough, with commercial pressures corrupting the Renault team, next comes the coup de grace, when the sport’s governing body, the FIA, chooses money over principles and gives Renault merely a suspended sentence, rather than jeopardising their commercial contribution to Formula One. Unbelievable.
Oddly enough, I’m not too bothered about Formula One. It’s the bigger picture that worries me. If we can’t trust sport any more, what else can we trust? Certainly not politicians, in whom trust is at an all-time low. Nor bankers, who are now gleefully overcharging their customers in order to re-fuel their bonuses.
What about brands? It ought to be a time when tried and trusted brand relationships become even stronger by contrast with all the above. And there are some great examples out there of brands making hay while the flames lick all around (check out the way Virgin Media handles individual tweets on www.twitter.com/virginmedia).
But with voicemail systems making so many companies ever more difficult to contact and Ryanair trying to charge people to use the toilets, it’s amazing how far the loss of trust has gone with so many brands. Brands beware.