High Profile Sponsorships Gone Wrong

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Tiger Woods in 2007

Image via Wikipedia

As we all know too well, the world of sport, motorsport and celebrity is one that revolves completely around money. People, CEOs and famous athletes will do anything to succeed in their respective position – and do even more to secure lucrative sponsorship deals. The aforementioned agreements are usually worth millions to the figure and can boost the popularity of a brand overnight. But what happens when it all goes wrong? When the sponsorship deals goes sour? Let’s have a gander.

Tiger Woods

Mr Tiger Woods – that’s not his real name either, Google that! – is, or was, one of the most respected athletes of our time. He completely revolutionised the game of golf when he came on the scene in 1997 and, for well over a decade, dominated the sport with his incredible shot-making and will to win. One problem, though, the guy liked his women, and a that love of the opposite sex came back to haunt him when a series of unfortunate events lead to the media finding out Woods had been cheating on his wife for years with quite a lot of women.

The news shook the world, disappointed millions of fans and surprised even Woods’ closest friends, but one thing that Woods lost more than his dignity was his appeal to the big sponsors. Tiger was signed up to everything: Nike, Gillette, AT&T, Gatorade, the Moon, Jesus, you get the idea. But when the news broke, his multi-million dollar partnerships looked very rocky. He single-handedly tarnished the reputation of the aforementioned companies – and, rather surprisingly, the companies weren’t very happy. Especially AT&T, who are a bit like O2 in Britain, as they invested hugely in utilising Woods’ high-profile image to sell their mobile phones.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant isn’t really that well-known to us Brits, but in America he’s one of the most famous basketball players ever – think Michael Jordan but not as good. So when charges of sexual assault were thrust upon Kobe back in 2003, the Yanks gasped and the basketball-playing children of America instantly lost a hero. Kobe managed to get the charges dismissed, but his big-time endorsement partners were about as interested as the general public is with a political speech.

His contracts with McDonalds, Sprite and Nutella all vanished, losing Kobe $6 million a year just like that. He has since kept his public figure quite low-key and continued to play ball for the L.A. Lakers, but his trail in 2003 was enough to tarnish his image forever.

The F1-cigarette deal

For decades Formula One cars were lavished with the branding of major cigarette companies. Ferrari had one of the most successful deals with Marlboro, as they have been in agreement with each other since 1984. But when the EU banned cigarette companies from advertising on the actual cars in 2007, there was up-roar, as they felt like why should they change the habit of a lifestyle?

But while the advertising on the cars may be banned, the sponsorship deals aren’t. Marlboro still sponsors Ferrari and has recently just extended their partnership until 2015. So while this deal may have gone a little sour for the entire F1 community in 2007, the money is still there burning away like the embers of a cigarette.

McLaren and Libya

Can a sponsorship deal really fail before it’s even begun? Well, with the McLaren/Libya deal, there is certainly a case for it. McLaren were in talks with the Libyan Tourist Board – before all the uprising began – to place a ‘Visit Libya’ livery on McLaren’s F1 cars.

Obviously, we all know what’s happening to Libya in recent times and McLaren has since insisted no deal will ever be done, but what makes the story more interesting is that the man who was instrumental in the deal has been accused of dealing with Saif Gaddafi – aka, the son of Colonel Gaddafi.

Alex Waters, the aforementioned, has since denied the allegations, but as Saif Gaddafi has been killed in a Nato airstrike, it seems that will be the end of this story. Just imagine, though, if the deal had been agreed and then the whole Libya uprising began. McLaren would have looked mightily embarrassed.

This is a guest post on behalf of Netcars.com, the specialist used cars website.

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