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Kobe Bryant's Endorsement Deals

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When L.A. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman, advertising and marketing professionals across the country immediately began speculating about Bryant's endorsement deals.

What actually happens with his endorsement deals remains to be seen. Breaking them down, you can examine each company's goals and what they have to lose or gain:

McDonald's
McD's could easily be viewed as the biggie and, quite possibly, has the most to lose. The fast food chain just launched an ad campaign geared toward moms with new salads that's already showing favorable results. The salads are a hit and are drawing in the families.

McD's just announced a new tagline of "I'm Lovin' It" and seems to be making great strides in bringing customers back. Customers of all ages.

Guilty or innocent, the charges alone are going to have plenty of people forming their own judgments. That includes women and that's the audience McD's is trying to reach in its new commercials.

McDonald's execs won't comment on whether they'll keep Bryant. Experts predict McD's may try to cancel his contract on the adultery admission alone.

Most endorsement contracts have morals clauses in them but experts agree the out is pretty useless. You practically have to be convicted of a felony for a company to drop you through the morals clause. For family-friendly McDonald's, they may have no other choice but to try.

Nike
Nike signed Bryant just days before the allegations were made public. The company's been getting tons of free publicity just from the media exposure.

If Bryant comes out of the trial with an acquittal, Nike could, theoretically, hold on to him. He reportedly signed a five year, $40 million contract with Nike. While endorsement contracts are strict, it might be harder for Nike to get out of its contract. They could let his contract expire but five years is a long time and $40 million is a lot of money.

Plus, Nike holds the contracts of golfer Tiger Woods (five years, $100 million), NBA's LeBron James (seven years, $90 million) and Michael Jordan (five years, $47 million). The shoe company's already doling out major moolah for endorsements who they can afford to see hawking their wares.

Sprite
Coca-Cola's not ready to ditch Bryant just yet but execs are being tight-lipped about their plans. Official word is that they're watching the developments of the case.

Fortunately for Sprite, since this is the NBA off-season, execs don't have to make any immediate decisions since no ads are currently running. Bryant's been under contract with Coca-Cola since 1997 and his contract expires in 2005.

Upper Deck and Spalding
Basically, you're looking at sports-related products and that could help these companies in this area.

For Spalding, Bryant's been the face of an exclusive line of Kobe Bryant signature basketballs. Even as of this writing, Bryant autographed basketballs were going for close to $200 on Ebay.com.

While these two companies may not look at Bryant as the fresh face of basketball and a model spokesperson, they'll still be able to draw a profit from sports collectors and those just seeking something Kobe.

Endorsement contracts have tightened up over the years. And with the image Kobe Bryant once had, companies will, undoubtedly, be re-evaluating wording and clauses and tightening those contracs up even further.

Bryant will more than likely lose at least a couple of deals out of this. Companies just can't take the risks associated with a charge of this magnitude. Their own reputation may be damaged and upholding the contract may do more harm than good.

Of course, if Bryant's found guilty, he'll have bigger problems to worry about than his endorsement deals.

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