Player Endorsements: When Does It Cross The Line?

Under Armour and Steph Curry have now joined the club where athletes make comments that challenge the brand they’re endorsed by. In the past, we have seen athletes get their endorsement deals cancelled due to certain comments or actions they made that caused the endorsing brand to think twice and consider if the partnership is worthy.

Steph Curry’s comments came as a response to Under Armour’s CEO’s comments, Kevin Plank, regarding the newly elected president of the USA, Donald Trump, calling him an asset to the country. Curry’s comment was smart, as he didn’t use the word he hinted for in his comments(drop the et from the asset). Now, let’s look at previous similar cases and see whether what Curry said can be considered as crossing the line with his sponsors.

A case that immediately comes to mind is Manny Pacquiao’s. The Philippine boxer used to have an endorsement deal with Nike until almost a year ago, but then during a political campaign where he said that same-sex relationships are worse than animals, Nike pulled out of the deal and stood up for the LGBT community.

It was not the only case with Pacquiao.In 2012 he also made comments regarding the gay community but in that case, Nike stalled. Pacquiao was earning around $12M from sponsorships (Forbes)

The next case involves Wayne Rooney and Coca-Cola. Although the striker did not make any comments it was his actions that caused controversy. An incident which affected his family life and for Coca-Cola being associated with him at the time might have hurt the brand’s image and may have been the reason for Coca-Cola to pull out of the deal, yet when the incident just emerged Coca-Cola stood beside him and eventually let his contract with the company run out without renewal.

The final example involved another striker whose actions were controversial and not for the first time. When Luis Suarez bit Giorgio Chiellini in the 2014 FIFA World Cup it was the third time the Uruguayan striker was involved in such an incident after previous bites occurred while he was playing for Ajax and Liverpool.

Out of the cases mentioned above, this is the only one where the Sponsor did not pull out of the deal. Adidas certainly did not accept Suarez’s actions and made it clear, but also stated that while the striker will not feature in additional campaigns during that World Cup, the company will meet with the striker and his representative to emphasise details of their partnership.

Whether Steph Curry’s comments will raise any action from Under Armour remains to be seen. But were his comments that bad? Or it is more of an incident due to the fact that he disagrees with the company’s owner. Can Under Armour afford to withdraw out of a deal with Curry in terms of brand image and value?

The company’s stock had its biggest fall in nine years last month and the sales forecast was off by $600M. (Forbes)



Leave a Reply