'A PR disaster'-Canaries fans blast new sponsor's social media content

Empty stands at Carrow Road. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Carrow Road, home of Norwich City FC - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City fans have hit out at the club's "lack of research" into an Asian betting company after adult content shared on its social media pages surfaced. 

The club has said it has worked swiftly with its shirt sponsor for the 2021/22 season, BK8, to remove the posts and the firm has apologised for the content but some City fans believe the incident will leave lasting damage. 

A screenshot of BK8's website which includes former Manchester United and Arsenal forward  Robin Van Persie

A screenshot of BK8's website which includes former Manchester United and Arsenal forward Robin Van Persie - Credit: BK8

Images of scantily clad young women had been posted on an Instagram account for BK8.

Inappropriate videos with sexualised connotations, which BK8 posted in the past, have also been causing anger among Norwich fans.

Behind the scenes from the BK8 main sponsorship announcement at Norwich City, Carrow Road.

Norwich City have announced BK8 as the club's new principal partner, with club ambassador Darren Eadie and chief operating officer Ben Kensell, right, in the foreground - Credit: Norwich City/Matthew Usher

Robin Sainty, chairman of the Canaries Trust, said he has received a lot of negative feedback from members. 

He said: "It has not gone down well at all, no question about that. A lot of people are opposed to gambling firms and sponsors but I think the key issue in this one is obviously the Instagram account.

"I do not tie it in with the club's community image that they have been looking to create, or have created. It just seems to be a PR disaster."

robin sainty

Canaries Trust chairman Robin Sainty. - Credit: Archant

In response to what actions he would like the club to take, Mr Sainty said: "It's difficult to say from a layman's perspective how it can be reversed without breaking the contract.

"It is a messy situation for everyone and upsetting for female fans seeing some of the content on the Instagram account.

"It's just really bad timing with the atmosphere around the club being toxic because of the Emi Buendia transfer and then this comes in almost simultaneously which has made an awkward situation even more awkward." 

Indecent images shared by new Norwich City sponsor BK8

Indecent images shared by new Norwich City sponsor BK8 - Credit: Submitted

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Terri Westgate, a socialist feminist Canaries fan, said she had been speaking to a parent who was questioning whether he would buy a new football shirt for his daughter this year having done so annually before.

She added: "I work in marketing and the idea they did not check the social media accounts before or after going ahead with this partnership is really out of order. 

Inappropriate content from Norwich City's new sponsor BK8

Inappropriate content from Norwich City's new sponsor BK8 - Credit: Submitted

"Why had they not done their due diligence process properly before? It all seems a bit late as if they are surprised by the fans' reaction.

"It feels like the club has sold a bit of our soul to get into the Premier League and it has tainted that great relationship talking about being inclusive and making it a community club." 

Di Cunningham, founder of Norwich City supporters group Proud Canaries, said she was upset to see a "shameful agreement" with a business that "disrespects women" in its promotional material on social platforms including YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram. 

She said: "I'm so disappointed - one of the things I've always treasured about my club is that they set their values above profit margins. There's always been a commitment to respect and equality. 

"They've forged some innovative partnerships too as sponsors in the past-including Warpaint last season. 

"This couldn't be more different." 

Di Cunningham of Proud Canaries

Di Cunningham of Proud Canaries will be one of the inspirational role models taking part in Norwich Pride Schools Week. - Credit: Archant

It has been discovered that the BK8 main Instagram account has since been taken down upon the request of the club.

Natasha Harpley, a district councillor for Sprowston, said: "The club should have looked into it. Do your research. Younger people are so used to sexualised images of women on Instagram and young girls are exploited for their sexuality. 

"It does not mean us oldies are prudes, it is not being Mary Whitehouse and clutching our pearls. It is not right that women's bodies are being used to sell things.

"What kind of message do they think this is sending? It's a club that prides itself on being family friendly and it's Kicks programme. We are now seeing massive problems with sexual harassment in schools." 

Natasha Harpley

Natasha Harpley, councillor for Sprowston Central, has been campaigning in recent years to make sending "dick pics" illegal - Credit: Natasha Harpley

A Norwich City spokesman said: "The club worked swiftly with BK8 to remove the posts following the announcement of the new partnership.

"These posts and marketing do not align with the wider Norwich City vision and values and we will be reviewing our due diligence process going forward."

A screenshot of BK8's website which includes former Manchester United and Arsenal forward  Robin Van Persie

A screenshot of BK8's website which includes former Manchester United and Arsenal forward Robin Van Persie - Credit: BK8

And in a statement issued on Monday evening, BK8 said: "Following concerns and issues raised by Norwich City Football Club and its supporters following our announcement this morning, BK8 would like to wholeheartedly apologise for any offence caused by our historical marketing.

"We accept that this form of marketing isn’t befitting of a Premier League partnership. We have immediately removed all marketing material of this nature and will conduct a review of our marketing strategy moving forward."