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Tatler gives up on HK$16m grant: Can this help it recover from reputational damage?

Tatler gives up on HK$16m grant: Can this help it recover from reputational damage?

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Following the Lionel Messi fiasco, Tatler Asia, the organiser of the friendly match between Inter Miaimi and Hong Kong team has decided to withdraw its application for a HK$16m grant from the government regarding the event.

Michel Lamuniere, the chairperson of Tatler Asia since 2015, said during a press briefing on Monday that the funding agreement signed by Tatler and Inter Miami includes key terms to require Messi and Luis Suarez to take part in the match unless they are injured.

He said that Messi, Suarez, and other members of the team such as Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were included in the official team sheet signed by Miami's head coach Gerardo Martino before the game, showing Messi and Luis Suarez as substitutes and this meant they were fit to play.

He added that the club informed Tatler at half-time that Messi would be unable to play due to an injury, and Tatler immediately informed the government. "Tatler Asia subsequently spent the second half urging the Inter Miami CF leadership to instruct Messi to address the fans, to no avail," he added.

Therefore, Tatler decided to withdraw its application for the HK$16m grant from the government and expressed its deep regret over the disappointment of Messi’s fans and Hongkongers.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to Tatler for a statement. 

Complaints received from consumers

On the other hand, the Consumer Council has received 477 complaints regarding the Tatler XFEST Hong Kong as of 6 February at 5pm. Among these, 403 complaints were filed by local consumers and 74 were from travellers. The total amount involved in these complaints is HK$3,102,535.

“The Consumer Council has observed that even though the event's ticket sales did not explicitly state or guarantee the participation of specific players, there was also no explanation provided regarding the possibility of individual players not being able to participate due to injury,” the statement reads.

“Instead, most promotional materials prominently featured photos of specific players, and the organisers' promotional publications consistently stated that the team would be led by these players. As a result, consumers had a reasonable expectation that these players would participate in the exhibition match,” the statement added.

Don't miss: What led to the PR debacle around Messi no-show for Inter Miami friendly?

This led to a dip in Tatler's brand sentiments. Prior to the incident, Tatler enjoyed a 27.8% positive sentiment and just 2% negative sentiment. However, it currently stands at 16.5% positive and 20% negative, according to media intelligence firm CARMA. 

What more can be done to repair the reputational damage to Tatler?

Industry players MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to believed that Tatler’s move to give up on the HK$16m grant from the government can be seen as a wise call to show accountability and a willingness to rectify the situation without burdening taxpayers further.

After all, as the ultimate organiser of the event, Tatler needs to be held accountable for the outcome, said Desmond Ku, founder and director, The Bridge Agency. 

David Ko, managing director, RFI Asia, said giving up a significant grant will have financial implications, but if this action helps to preserve their long-term reputation and client relationships, it might be considered a strategic investment into the company's future.

Withdrawing the application for the massive grant represents that Tatler is listening to its audience, said Kevin Kan, chief experience officer, Break Out Consulting Asia. “People or customers want to be heard. Organisations need to recognise when they have made a mistake and learn from their mistakes.”

True enough, a major stumble doesn’t mean the end of the road. Kan said it’s important to acknowledge the mistake and make changes to one’s operations to not repeat the mistake. “Brand sentiments will improve when another successful event is held.”

Whilst it is unlikely that this will impact the reputation of the Tatler brand at an international level, there will be some rebuilding of trust needed in Hong Kong and potentially other markets in Asia that are more aware of the story, said Keso Kendall, SVP, TEAM LEWIS APAC.

Looking from a wider perspective, it is unlikely that this will impact whether international stars choose to work with events agencies like Tatler, but could have the inverse effect of big stars being concerned about appearing in markets like Hong Kong where they are worried about potential fan backlash or complaints, which is a sad outcome for both fans and stars, Kendall added.

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