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SBD/Issue 98/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing
Subway Stands By Phelps, But May Suspend Planned Ad Efforts
Published February 9, 2009
|Though Disappointed In Behavior,
Subway Maintains Phelps' Sponsorship
MIX UP IN REPORTS: ESPN's "SportsCenter" led off its 6:00pm ET Friday episode by citing a BuzzNewsroom.com report that Subway "is preparing to drop Phelps and his sponsorship deal." ESPN's Brian Kenny reported Subway "said it is not commenting or releasing a statement regarding Phelps, but the web report says executives want to be rid of the embarrassment.” Approximately 75 minutes into the broadcast, Kenny updated the Subway report, saying, "Subway has not dropped Michael Phelps and his endorsement deal, as a Web site reported earlier” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 2/6).
DON'T BE LIKE MIKE: USA Swimming Exec Dir Chuck Wielgus said that the NGB did not believe Phelps' three-month suspension "set a precedent for other athletes who could, in theory, be suspended without testing positive for drugs." Wielgus: "We viewed this as an extraordinary circumstance, and we do not see this as a precedent for other swimming athletes who might exhibit bad judgment. ... We simply felt that it was important to send a message that we thought to be in the best interest of Michael, USA Swimming, the Olympic Movement and the sport" (Baltimore SUN, 2/7). But ESPN.com's J.A. Adande said, "It’s really more symbolic than anything because this thing did create a media firestorm, (and) USA Swimming feels like they have to react somehow" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/6). ESPN's Pat Forde said USA Swimming "felt like they had to do something to register their disapproval" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/6). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser: “It’s totally symbolic and I think it’s the right way to go because of the way he’d been Godded up” ("PTI," ESPN, 2/6). CNBC’s Darren Rovell called the suspension "crazy" and said, "Do you think anyone in the NFL or (MLB), with the unions, would be able to get suspended for behavior based on a photo? That’s crazy, that sets a horrible precedent” (ESPN.com, 2/9).
Phelps' Participation In The '12 London
Games Has Millions At Stake For NBC
SETTING THE BAR TOO HIGH: In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck wrote if you are "going to create an image that a celebrity is going to have to inhabit for the rest of his career and maybe the rest of his life, you've got to be sure that the celebrity in question is both willing and capable of pulling that off." Phelps "obviously is neither, though that doesn't make him a bad fellow," but rather "badly mismanaged." Phelps is the "rare athlete able to elicit this level of shock and disenchantment from one photograph of him doing what countless college students in countless frat houses do every weekend night all over America." Phelps was "presented to the public and corporate America as a squeaky-clean paragon of virtue who would never, ever do such a tawdry thing as act like an actual 23-year-old." Schmuck wrote if Phelps' representation at Octagon "had it to do over again, I'm pretty sure it would still have sold Phelps to Speedo and Omega, but not to a company that makes sugary cereal for kids" (Baltimore SUN, 2/7). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey wrote one can "understand why Phelps might crave some modicum of normalcy." Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs professor emeritus Jay Coakley: "I would say there was a desperate desire on his part to get out of this tunnel in which he has been living" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/8).
Phelps' Maintained Support From
Sponsors Surprises Some
HE'S NOT PERFECT, SO WHAT? In Houston, Richard Justice wrote, "I don't understand why we have to make these people objects, how we have to forget that, at the end of the day, he's still like the rest of us in most ways." Who did the sponsors "think they were signing in the first place?" Did they "understand he's young, that he's not perfect, that he's as flawed as the rest of us?" (CHRON.com, 2/6). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs wrote, "We're all screw-ups in some way. I'd hire Phelps any day of the week before I hired the opportunistic scumbag who used a camera phone to snap his picture and then sold it to a British tabloid" (HARTFORD COURANT, 2/8). In Oakland, Monte Poole wrote part of Phelps' "appeal, we reasoned, stemmed from him being a regular kid, an everyman who happens to swim like a shark" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 2/8).
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