One of Novak Djokovic's major sponsors has seemingly thrown its support behind the tennis star, with watch-maker Hublot saying they believe vaccination is a personal choice.
Djokovic's sponsors are scrambling following his deportation from Australia, with some of the biggest brands in the world weighing up whether they want to be associated with the unvaccinated World No.1.
'CAN'T BELIEVE IT': Australian Open rocked by 'crazy' drama
But it appears as though Hublot will be sticking by Djokovic's side after a telling statement on Monday.
Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe said the brand, owned by French luxury conglomerate LVMH, was waiting to hear from Djokovic about his experience.
"We are waiting to see what his position is with regard to all that he went through," he told Reuters.
"The principle of vaccines is that it's something private. We value personal freedom.
"Everyone can decide. One can be in favour or against. That's our position."
The Djokovic saga has raised a major dilemma for sponsors, who must strike a balance between respecting an athlete's personal freedom and keeping in step with the public mood.
Guadalupe said he believed Djokovic would make a statement at the end of the Australian Open, which ends on January 30.
"We will define our position then," he said.
Hublot, who also sponsors sporting greats including Pelé, Kylian Mbappé and Usain Bolt, signed up "living legend" Djokovic last August.
According to Forbes, Djokovic earned $30 million (AU$42 million) last year from sponsorship tie-ups.
Lacoste to 'review' deal with Novak Djokovic
Another of Djokovic's leading sponsors - French apparel brand Lacoste - said last week it would contact him to 'review' events in Australia.
"As soon as possible we will be in touch with Novak Djokovic to review the events that have accompanied his presence in Australia," a statement read.
Djokovic's Lacoste contract is his most lucrative, valued at around $9 million by several American media outlets.
Marcel Knobil, founder of Superbrands and the Brand Council consultancy, told The Telegraph that Djokovic’s annual endorsements could be at risk if he embraces his supposed image as “the anti-vaxx poster boy”.
Djokovic's other sponsors include carmaker Peugeot, which has declined to comment on the incident, and Austrian lender Raiffeisen Bank International.
The Vienna-based bank, which announced a deal with Djokovic in April, said it had agreed on a multi-year partnership with the player on the basis of his strong reputation in central and eastern Europe.
They said in an email on Monday that the decision was made "long before the current reporting on Novak Djokovic and his Covid-19 vaccination status and his participation in the Australian Open."
Djokovic is facing a three-year ban from Australia after having his visa cancelled and being deported from the country.
He is now reportedly weighing up a $6 million lawsuit against the Australian government.
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