It’s good for the companies and great for the athletes… until it isn’t.
When an athlete does something wrong, companies usually go running.
Take Oscar Pistorius. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re heard about the blade running Olympian and his murder charge. He recently lost Oakley and Nike has suspended their endorsement. That’s an estimated loss of over $2 million a year. Today he was let out on bail and even if he beats the charge, he might never get his endorsements back. Pistorius, a double amputee, has a great story; however, most companies don’t want to be associated with an alleged murderer.
Nike, one of the biggest athletic companies, often stands by their athletes, except when they have broken the law or cheated at their chosen sport.
The more family-friendly the athlete’s image, the harder they fall. Look at Tiger Woods. After his sex scandal in 2010, he lost approximately $22 million in endorsement deals, including Tag Heuer, Gatorade, Accenture and Gillette. Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney lost both Coca-Cola and Tiger Beer after he was caught cheating on his pregnant wife.
Dog fighter Michael Vick lost Nike and Rawlings. However, in 2011, Nike re-signed Vick when he came back strong after spending some time in jail.
Even something that might not seem like a big deal, such as Michael Phelps smoking pot, can still hurt. Phelps lost his Kellogg’s endorsement after that photo was leaked.
Sometimes all it takes is an accusation, especially a criminal one.
- O.J. lost his Hertz deal after the accusation that he killed his wife.
- Pepsi dropped Mike Tyson like a bit off ear when he was accused of hitting his wife.
- When Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault both McDonald’s and Nutella went running. Coca-Cola let Bryant’s contract expire in 2003 then resigned him in 2008 to promote Vitamin Water.
- Pittsburgh Steeler Ben Roethlisberger lost his local endorsement with Big Ben’s Beef Jerky when his sexual assault allegations surfaced.
Losses due to steroid use
Lance Armstrong is definitely the biggest loser in this category. He’s lost an estimated $150-200 million in future earnings after being dropped by Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Trek, FRS and Honey Stinger.
Baseball great Barry Bonds may have broken the home run record but he lost financially when Charles Schwab, KFC and MasterCard left alone at home plate.
Olympic runner Ben Johnson lost both his 1988 gold medal and his $2.8 million deal with Diadora.