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Sponsors stick with Zidane despite head-butt
Dominique Vidalon | July 12, 2006 13:22 IST
Though Zidane has yet to explain his actions, sponsors from food group Danone to German sports goods giant Adidas rushed to support the man who fired France to victory in the 1998 World Cup.
Adidas, Zidane's long-time sponsor, even said it would launch a Web site -- www.mercizidane.fr -- on July 15 so supporters can thank him.
"He has been Adidas's ambassador for 10 years and will stay its ambassador until 2017. In fact Mr Hainer (the company's chief executive) said he could stay as long as he wishes," Adidas marketing head Emmanuelle Gaye told Reuters.
According to trade magazine France Football, Zidane earns an estimated 8.6 million euros ($11 million) per year from advertising contracts, more than his 6.4 million euro salary with Spanish soccer club Real Madrid.
In his last game for his country, the midfielder was sent off for butting Italian player Marco Materazzi in the chest after exchanging comments with the defender.
This ensured that Zidane missed the penalty shoot-out that won it for Italy [Images], and the FIFA soccer federation is opening a disciplinary investigation into the matter.
But complaints from sponsors are few.
"There will be no impact on the contract we have with him," said Marie-Christine Lanne, the marketing head of insurer Generali France, which has a three-year contract with Zidane until 2008.
France Telecom said it had renewed its advertising contract with Zidane in May 2006 "for several years", but gave no details.
CLOSER TO THE PEOPLE
The son of an Algerian warehouseman, Zidane featured recently in the French telecoms group's TV and press advertisement to promote its service offering live video footage of the World Cup on its rebranded Web site orange.fr.
Some observers say it is paradoxical that Zidane, often described as reserved and introverted, has become such a public relations and advertising icon.
The sponsors' attitude chimes with the reaction of ordinary French people, most of whom say they have forgiven the head-butt, according to a poll published in the Le Parisien newspaper on Tuesday.
In fact, the controversial end to Zidane's career could propel him into the ranks of celebrities who have turned dark moments into advertising gold, some observers say.
Earlier this month, fashion house Burberry reinstated British supermodel Kate Moss [Images] to front its new ad campaign. The Crown Prosecution Service had said Moss would not face charges after allegations in the media she took illegal drugs.
"It's not going to harm him. The sponsors are not withdrawing," said Jacques Seguela, chief communications officer at Havas. "This childish gesture gives a more human image of the hero. It brings the icon closer to the people."
(Additional reporting by Astrid Wendlandt)