Today brought the completely unsurprising news that Nike has suspended its contract with Olympian “Blade Runner” and accused murderer Oscar Pistorius in order to “protect the brand”. Of course, the company also dropped Lance Armstrong last month after he confessed to being a cheater and a general jerk. Other athletes, however, have fared far better even after their bad behavior created PR problems for Nike. Remember the awful Tiger Woods/James Earl Jones commercial? Remember how Nike stuck with A-Rod after he admitted to using steroids?
We also find it a little strange to note that Nike still has a very cozy relationship with its biggest spokesman, Michael Jordan, who not only admitted to being a serial adulterer but supposedly taught Tiger how to follow in his footsteps. (Both Tiger and Kobe Bryant, another famous cheater and homophobe, have new Nike campaigns on the way. Tiger’s is titled “apologies.”)
Here’s what we take from this development:
We don’t want to make broad generalizations about athletes, but let’s face it: many of the most talented people in sports are less impressive in their personal lives. So when does a spokesman become a liability for a brand? When is image rehabilitation no longer feasible?