LONDON, May 5: Even though Nike has invested millions of pounds to be one of Wayne Rooney's sponsors, the company refuses to see the England striker's broken foot as a business disaster.
''While we are very, very sorry Rooney has suffered this injury and are not sure if he will play at the World Cup, from a business perspective this is something we could have imagined happening so it will not be a major disaster,'' said Massimo Giunco, commercial director of Nike in Europe.
Rooney's involvement in next month's World Cup in Germany was thrown into serious doubt when he fractured bones in his right foot during Manchester United's 3-0 defeat at champions Chelsea on Saturday.
''From a sporting perspective it is a disaster,'' Giunco told Reuters. ''We are sorry because he is a great football player and without him the World Cup would definitely be the poorer.
''From a business perspective, we know sport very well and that injuries are part of a sportsman's life,'' added Giunco.
Media reports said Rooney was trying out a new Nike boot when he was hurt in a tackle with Chelsea and Portugal defender Paulo Ferreira.
The terms of the 20-year-old striker's deal with the US sportswear group are a closely-guarded secret but media reports say it could be worth five million pounds (9.17 million dollars) over 10 years.
Giunco described the financial cost to Nike from Rooney's injury as ''not relevant''.
''We are not insured for this type of thing; some football clubs may be insured for this type of thing but not Nike,'' he said.
''Wayne Rooney is not only a wonderful player for Manchester United and England but for world football too. We want him to be back as soon as possible because we love football, that's all.
''That's the funny side of working for this company. If you love sport and you work for a company that works mainly in sport, you see things firstly from a sports perspective, rather than business.'' Tom Webb, a director of the sports sponsorship company Bell Pottinger, said global brands such as Nike fully appreciated the potential pitfalls of sponsoring sportsmen.
''Sponsors are very aware that sportsmen can always get injured,'' Webb told Reuters.
''It is part of the maturing of the industry that sponsors now know that risk is potentially so great it may outweigh any return they get on their investment before the event takes place.
''But the returns can be multiplied 100 times over when the person does take part and comes through unscathed.'' Webb, whose clients include the Wimbledon tennis championships, Rolex and Emirates Airlines, said sponsors were beginning to wise up to the pitfalls by spreading the risks involved. ''What I think you'll see is companies using the image of the whole team rather than the individual so to some extent they can lessen the risk of someone not taking part,'' he said.
''Coca-Cola are a good example. They did a promotion where a club could win a player worth up to 250,000 pounds and got to the emotional heart of why the football fans are so passionate about their sport.
''They didn't align themselves with a particular player and therefore minimised their risks enormously.'' Webb believed the cost to a company like Nike following Rooney's injury could run into millions of pounds.
''If I was to put a figure on it, there's a direct cost I suspect needs to be written off in terms of marketing, use of his image and use of him in the run-up to a tournament itself, that could be several million pounds,'' he said.
''I have no idea what they have invested in using his image and what they could be using him for in the Far East. But I imagine he has grown in popularity out there and there's probably several million pounds being put into using him abroad so it could be anywhere in the region of 10 million pounds.'' Nike, however, could benefit from the huge publicity generated as the media speculates about whether Rooney will recover in time for the World Cup, which runs from June 9 to July 9.
Jamie Wynne-Morgan, a director of M&C Saatchi sponsorship, said: ''There is going to be a running commentary now on Rooney so in some ways it can work out well for individual sponsors.'' Wynne-Morgan, whose clients include Reebok, Carlsberg and Orange, said David Beckham's sponsors Adidas worked hard to turn around the situation when the England captain broke his foot before the 2002 World Cup.
''There were murmurings of his boot then too,'' he said. ''But Adidas got designers and technicians in Germany to create a specific boot for him to wear.
''Even though he was injured they were projecting the issue so that it would not happen again. There was a lot of positive coverage around that.''