FC Spartak Moscow is the most popular football club in Russia, having won 12 Soviet championships and nine of 18 Russian championships.
Under the agreement as Nutrition Sponsor, doctors and nutrition experts from Herbalife’s Nutrition Advisory Board will work with the club’s doctors to determine players’ nutritional needs and develop specific nutrition programs to support them.
The contract also gives Herbalife logo placement on the back of the first team jerseys on all games of the Russian Championship. Herbalife signage and branding includes Spartak’s home stadium, club’s bus, printed materials for the home games, and official website of the football club.
Rusian business daily Vedomosti reported, citing an unidentified club partner, that the contract would cost Herbalife about $10 million over 2 1/2 years.
In December more than 800 people were arrested in central Moscow in an attempt to prevent further ethnic clashes over the shooting of a Spartak fan, police said. The arrests came as groups of youths, many shouting nationalist slogans, gathered near a Moscow train station. The death of a Moscow Spartak fan, allegedly in a fight with North Caucasians, has been used as an excuse for riots and attacks targeting ethnic minorities.
Dozens more people were reportedly detained in other Russian cities with police in St Petersburg holding 60 people and another 100 were arrested in Samara, according to Interfax news agency, as authorities clampdown on racial violence.
Commenting, Herbalife’s Russian PR Agency RIM Porter Novelli e-mailed BSR the following statement: “We are thankful for the interest, shown by your editorial board to the activity of our company and we share your attention to the happening events. However, there is some ambiguity in combining the facts of our sponsorship and the latest social events. There is no connection between Herbalife’s sponsorship of the FC Spartak-Moscow and international dissention of the Nazi extremists and natives of countries of the near abroad.
“Sponsorship of football teams is a part of Herbalife’s global program that is oriented on promotion of healthy and active lifestyle. Altogether Herbalife supports 15 football clubs, among which there are leaders of the world football, such as Barcelona, Valencia, Shalke 04 and since recently FC Spartak-Moscow.
“The company is in charge of the development of healthy sport nutrition for the club’s players, that is why, the same as FC Spartak-Moscow, doesn’t bear any responsibility for the activity of football fans. We don’t cooperate directly with any fan club. We also want to note that Prime Minister of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and official representatives of the fan club FC Spartak-Moscow declared about non-participation of the football fans in disturbances and about attempts of the human-manipulation from extremist’s and radical’s side by implementation in their ranks at the mass gatherings and events. These statements started appearing in mass media from the 11th of December 2010.”
Herbalife has operated in Russia since the early 1990's initially through grey marketing by Israelis of Russian ethnic origin who translated and printed marketing materials in Cyrillic. Initially Herbalife denied they had a presence or operated in Russia. In the mid-90's as the appeal and popularity of their products mushroomed Herbalife sent in a team of top executives protected by British bodyguards to legally structure operations with warehousing and customer support operations.