Will Pepsi drop Pakistan cricket over bribery allegations?

Pepsi is the main sponsor of the Pakistan national cricket team, about $6m worth which is part of the problem, but it can’t be very pleased about the current furore over Pakistan cricketers taking bribes to accomodate illegal bookmakers.

Why is $6m part of the problem? Because Pakistani cricketers get paid much less than their peers in other countries so are always likely to be tempted by a bit of pin money on the side.

It’s almost certain that the three Pakistani cricketers unveiled by a News of the World Sting for agreeing to produce no-balls to order will be banned for life. Such a ban will doubtless be reviewed in a year or two, quite rightly, because the cricketers involved are silly (and possibly frightened) young men rather than crooks.

As for Pepsi it has a big problem. Pakistan is just the place to win brownie points on the cheap, it has 300 million people and most of them don’t drink alcohol.

But PR-wise it probably lags only North Korea and Iran in the global unpopularity stakes.

The recent appeal for funds to help the flood disaster hitting the country has, apparently, produced a laggardly response as most people in other countries, however sympathetic they may be to the many millions of individuals affected, just see Pakistan as a boil on the butt of the world: home to terrorism and, now, dodgy cricketers.

The two things ain’t the same but they grab headlines in almost equal proportions.

So should Pepsi ship out?

It’s the easy decision but not necessarily the right one.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.