January 23, 2022

Australian Open ends its sponsorship deal with Santos

23 January 2022: Climate activist group 350 Australia has welcomed the Australian Open ending its sponsorship deal with Santos, following a campaign calling on the tennis tournament to stop letting the fossil fuel company “sportswash” its image.

Santos was a visible sponsor at the 2021 Australian Open event, and on February 8th 2021 Tennis Australia announced a multiyear partnership with the gas giant. However, during the 2022  tournament, the Australian Open confirmed in an email to 350 Australia that Santos is no longer a sponsor.

According to 350 Australia CEO Lucy Manne, “Tennis Australia should be congratulated for ending their association with Santos. Fossil fuel companies like Santos are driving climate damage including increased heatwaves, drought, bushfires, coral bleaching and sea level rise – and they must not be allowed to ‘sportswash’ their image at major events.”

“The sustainability of the Australian Open depends on a sustainable climate. Research by the Climate Council has shown that climate change is already subjecting Australian Open players to more heat stress and the situation is expected to get worse.”

The move came after more than 7,600 people signed a petition organised by 350.org addressed to Australian Open Chief Executive Craig Tiley signed, and more than 1,300 people sent messages to the Australian Open asking them to end the sponsorship. During the 2021 Australian Open, 350 Australia ran a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter comparing promotion of fossil fuels to promotion of cigarettes.

Sporting events are coming under increased pressure to end their association with fossil fuel companies, with David Pocock in November 2019 calling fossil fuel sponsorships “the new cigarette sponsorship.” 350.org Australia and Fossil Free South Australia are now calling on the Tour Down Under to follow suit, and drop its naming rights sponsorship deal with Santos. South Australians will be protesting the Santos Festival of Cycling this week in Adelaide and Willunga, calling for the event organisers to break away from gas.

According to 350 Australia, fossil fuel companies like Santos are increasingly trying to buy support from the community due to the controversial nature of their projects.

“Santos is currently trying to push ahead with deeply unpopular new gas projects such as the Beetaloo Basin, Barossa, and Narrabri that are fiercely opposed by Traditional Owners, local communities, and the Australian public. Our most loved sporting events should not be an avenue for Santos to attempt to improve their image.”

“A sporting group promoting fossil fuels today is as irresponsible as a medical group promoting cigarettes in 1930 – it’s time for the Tour Down Under and all major sporting events to end their association with fossil fuel companies,” said Lucy Manne.

For interviews and background: Lucy Manne, 0417 387 516, lucy@350.org.au