Providing medical research funds not good look for Swisse

Corporate sponsorships and conflict of interest

Corporate sponsorships are a fundamental marketing and PR tool but this is not to say they are easy to navigate or manage.

Vitamin supplement company Swisse recently experienced negative publicity because of a sponsorship arrangement with La Trobe University that was perceived by the public and media to be a clear case of overreach. The story was picked up by radio and ran for the better part of a week.

Had Swisse sponsored a new sports talent development program, it would have been an uncontroversial fit and a natural compliment to their celebrity endorsements.

Instead Swisse sought validation by throwing large amounts of money at research in ‘Complimentary Medicine’, an area where the fit is awkward and conflict of interest is easy to allege. It only took one voice to create negative coverage but I’m sure plenty of other heads were shaking.

Finding the right corporate sponsorship arrangement is not as easy as it appears. External advice should have alerted Swisse to the possible hooks in their plan to sponsor health research. They either had bad or no advice, or chose to ignore whatever advice was offered.

It is certain the outcome was far from what they would have wished.


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