Professional sports are all around the United States, and sports advertising is an even bigger market. One of the ways that companies attempt to promote their brand is to “brand” an athlete. This includes an endorsement deal for the athlete, in which the athlete agrees to wear the company’s products exclusively for monetary gain and to support the company’s name. Although popular, branding an athlete always comes with uncertainty. Even though branding an athlete can promote a company’s name, branding an athlete should not be allowed due to the unpredictability, risk, and pressure involved in branding an athlete.
The first reason athletes should not be branded is due to the unpredictability of their behavior on and off the court. Athletes can be great role models for kids, and those would be the type of athletes companies would want to pursue as the face of their brand. Take Derek Jeter for example; he has been the face for the Michael Jordan baseball brand for nearly his entire career. His other sponsors include Gillette, Ford, VISA, and XM Satellite Radio (Tharp). Jeter’s career is defined by clutch moments, not by scandal or outside influences. But this is one quality example in a sea of scandals and allegations involving branded athletes. Whether it be Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, or Michael Phelps, there are many examples of athletes embarrassing a brand on or off the field. Bryant was accused of rape in 2003(although never proven), and later lost endorsement deals with Nutella and McDonald’s after his arrest (Rovell). Woods was caught cheating on his wife with multiple women, and eventually went through an ugly divorce. The famous golfer was outed in 2009 by tabloids to be cheating on his wife of six years, Elin Nordegren. According to CNBC, Tiger Woods personally lost around $23 million dollars worth of endorsements due to his extramarital affair, in 2010 alone (Golden). Phelps was pictured with drug paraphernalia, despite being a role model for swimmers everywhere after his record breaking Olympic performance. He later lost his endorsement with Kellogg, which is a popular U.S. food company (Macur). Although athletes can be dominant and popular at the time, the unpredictability of their behavior when the spotlight is on can influence or expose their true behavior.
Money can also increase the unpredictability of famous athletes. The amount of money that athletes make from endorsement contracts is immense. Derek Rose, for example, is the face of Adidas basketball. His new endorsement deal was signed for 13 years, $185 million dollars (Saporito). In addition, this deal is for a player that has had a history of injuries and is currently recovering from an ACL tear. Rose has yet to do anything to gain negative attention, and nobody wants to see an athlete of his influence fail. If he continues his success, along with good behavior, Rose could live up to his multi-million dollar endorsement.
Yet, because professional athletes already make enough money from their contracts, these endorsements are unnecessary. The average salaries for the “big three” sports (National Basketball Association, National Football League, and Major League Baseball) are already plenty to have a comfortable living. The NBA average is $5.2 million per year, the NFL average is $1.75 million, and the MLB average is $2.5 million (statisticbrain.com). Even with these huge contracts, a majority of athletes find a way to blow all of their money before their careers end anyways. “By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress.” Also, “ESPN sites a 2009 Sports Illustrated article that states 60 percent of former NBA players are broke within five years of retirement” (sfgate.com). These facts show that a majority of athletes are irresponsible with their money, so why should endorsement money be given to banshees...