Friday, February 6, 2009

A Tarnished Idol

I've watched with interest the tarnishing of a relatively new American idol this week - Michael Phelps. It is an interesting example of how one slip can have a major ripple effect. I found it interesting that Kellogg's has positioned themselves as no longer being a sponsor did so in the same month Michael Phelps contract with them was expiring anyway. They get to promote their wholesome American values at a cost to no one but Phelps, the contract was expiring anyway. I'm sure the marketing team at Kellogg's was thrilled.

Notice that his other sponsors have not withdrawn - but then their contracts are still in place and I'm sure the a public legal case attempting to terminate a contract would be much more costly than putting their heads down and waiting out the scandal.

Do I think Michael Phelps will recover? Yes. He is one of the great Olympic athletes of our time. And 2012 is coming and I'm sure the US will rally behind him again. He's handling this well with an appropriate amount of public shame and remorse. I'm just sad that all those lovely shiny gold medals are now just tinged with a little tarnish.

1 comment:

Lynne Barrett said...

I've never heard about any celebrity endorser contract cancellation leading to legal issues, because there is a don't-get-in-any-trouble clause in the contract (with perhaps some financial provisions included there). So I think the others decided to stick it out because it wasn't really that big of a problem for them. One of them sells expensive watches to people who probably like the idea of someone who can heroically achieve and party a bit too. And this story is nothing like using something that enhanced performance: it doesn't make his achievement doubtful.

Meanwhile, Kellogg's is getting a lot of bad publicity over this. People are organizing boycotts (and emphasizing how many people eat Kellogg's cereals as adults only because they have the munchies). They may have felt forced, given that their cereal is marketed for children, of course. But a fairly large number of people in America think marijuana use should be legal, some states have passed laws for medical use and lowering penalties, so it's not simple and many are using this case as a way to make their arguments, and Kellogg's is now a target.

Since his other sponsors are sticking with him, and a lot of people are highly sympathetic to him, it seems to me that he is not so much tarnished as humanized: not just a sports machine anymore.

There seem to be a lot of paradoxical situations where bad publicity is good publicity--but perhaps that is only for individuals, not for businesses?