Celebrity endorsement deals for athletes could be on the rocks. Sports marketers predict the steroids scandal involving such athletes as Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds and Marion Jones could overshadow all athletes up for endorsement deals.
Barry Bonds has already seen a mix of reactions from company execs. Topps trading cards just signed him to an endorsement deal. But MasterCard pulled out of talks for a promotion centering around Bonds' career home run record after the steroid scandal hit the news.
Nike, Pepsi and Arm & Hammer all have Jason Giambi inked to endorsement deals. Giambi's agent says none of those deals have been affected.
But sports marketing experts say events like Kobe Bryant's rape trial, the steroid scandal and the NBA basketball brawl damage the chances of all athletes gaining or keeping endorsement deals. They predict companies will start to look for ways to use sporting events to advertise their products without using athletes as celebrity endorsers.
With any endorsement deal, the company has to make sure their endorser won't harm the company's image. If the endorser does get into trouble, the company has to take every precaution to ensure its own image isn't affected. Many times, this means the company must distance itself from the endorser.
Moral clauses are also being written into more and more contracts so the company can get itself out of a deal should the celebrity get into trouble. From adultery to accusations of rape, the morals clause is becoming an industry standard for endorsements.
While celebrity endorsement deals won't disappear altogether, companies are considering moving away from athletes at least temporarily. Sports marketing experts say fans usually forgive and forget in time. Just how much time is a key question companies face when making the leap back into the celebrity endorsement game.