When China began to boycott brands who made political statements against Xinjiang cotton, the repercussions potentially equalled a loss of local sales. But as political motivations travel far beyond Chinese borders, western companies are being forced to choose sides too.
One such company is Barcelona’s star football club. Affectionately known as Barça, the team was to be sponsored by H&M as uniform outfitters. But not any more.
When H&M raised doubts about the respect of civil rights towards China’s Uighur minority, who are essentially the local cotton pickers, it faced a local backlash with its 500 stores disappearing from China’s main geolocators.
In light of H&M and China’s cotton row, team FC Barcelona temporarily suspended all negotiations for sponsorship, which would have equalled approximately three million euros per year for the Catalan-based club.
The move comes after an American manager of Houston’s NBA basketball team tweeted sympathetic support for Hong Kong’s protesters in 2019. The response triggered the wrath of the Chinese government, who suspended the airing of its games in a boycott which lasted nearly one year. This forged a loss of 400 million dollars for the basketball league.
The value of the sponsorship is not worth the possibility of retaliation.