Our PR Goofy Awards resume today with news from Dubai, where the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships are being held. according to the news, Israel’s Shahar Peer, 48th best tennis player in the world, was refused a visa by the United Arab Emirates. No reason was given for the UAE’s denial of Shahar’s entry, but an uproar or anti-semitism follows in the wake of the news.
Barclays Dubai Tennis Championship is one of the premier events on the tennis these days, the host of the tourney, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, evidently had no comment on the affair according to the news. “Brand Dubai”, a massive PR campaign undertaken by Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Bolland & Stewart, a the behest of Sheikh Mohammed, takes a big ostrich egg on its face from this PR travesty. Whether the Sheikh consulted with JMPB&S or not, from a public relations standpoint, excluding athletes from International events is not exactly an exemplary branding exercise.
The outcry against all concerned, including Barclay’s is widespread and will only grow worse as the news spreads. International sport, exemplified by the Olympics, is something that transcends such petty quibbling. This should be especially true of people endowed with so much good fortune. Israel is not favorite of mine in the political or PR realm, but Peer and other individuals should never have to pay for the power games of governments. For all Sheikh Mohammed knows, Peer might be the most liberal Israeli to ever wear a tennis skirt.
Big people and big leaders should be big in their grasp of humanity and reality as well. It does not take much intestinal fortitude or intellect, nor even religious fundamentalism to run around buying race horses at a billion dollar clip, or chunks of Sony. The big ticket “shopahaulic Shekh made the quote at some point; “Money is like water. Block its flow and it will stagnate.” In this case, blocking the flow of good sportsmanship and fair play will eventually cause Brand Dubai to stagnate. As for the PR behind these guys, they already appear stagnant. Their website looks like something out of the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. The prevalent theme there is broadcast via the rather hollow statement; “We help our clients forsee opportunities”. All I can say is; foreseeing the backlash over this must have been scary for them.
Another interesting twist to this story is that DLA Piper, which works with the Dubai Executive Office is where former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell reigns as Chairman Emeritus. Mitchell is also ironically President Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East. I must say he and his favorite company are doing a bang up job as well. Perhaps all this is going a little overboard, I mean Peer is not exactly a U.S. Open Champion.
Perhaps a more notable athlete in this situation would be slightly more understandable. As it is, it looks like the big old mean rich Arab, hating even the poor little 48th best girl on the tennis circuit. As for Barclay’s and all the others involved, class is something that money cannot buy. As for Sheik Mo, we hope our PR Goofy Award looks good on one of your many mantels.