Celebrity complications

Another accused sportsman and another sponsorship dilemma for Nike. But this time the decision to drop a global star as a brand ambassador was not taken with so much deliberation.

In light of recent allegations against Oscar Pistorious, Nike have announced that they are ending their association with the South African athlete. A statement from the sportswear giant said, “Nike has suspended its contract with Oscar Pistorius. We believe Oscar Pistorius should be afforded due process and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.” The announcement follows similar action from Clarins and Oakley in parting company with Pistorious.

Nike’s swift actions contrast greatly with the events of October 2012 when they dithered over what to do following the doping allegations made against Lance Armstrong. Armstrong was eventually dropped but the company stood by Tiger Woods after the golfer was caught playing the field and spending time in rehab for sex addiction. Nike’s marketing men sure know how to pick them.

The story again raises some important issues for both businesses and PR and marketing professionals about the perils of celebrity sponsorship, namely that they should choose wisely who they work with and who they choose to represent their brand. These ‘stars’ are only human and can, and will, behave in ways the sponsors would rather them not.

But more importantly it shows us that having a proper crisis management plan and enacting that plan quickly and promptly, is the key when taking a dive into the world of sponsorship.

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