SBD/January 31, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Erin Andrews' Endorsement Deal With Reebok Has Some Concerned

Andrews reported on players slipping in Nike cleats just before signing with Reebok
Journalism ethics experts are "raising questions about whether" Erin Andrews' comments about Nike during ESPN's coverage of the Rose Bowl "constituted a conflict of interest, and whether any journalist should endorse a commercial product," according to Katie Thomas of the N.Y. TIMES. Andrews earlier this month signed an endorsement deal with Reebok, two weeks after she reported on air that TCU players "were slipping in their new Nike cleats" during the Jan. 1 game against Wisconsin. Joel Kaplan, an associate dean at Syracuse's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, said, "I consider sports journalists and sports broadcasters to be ethically challenged in a lot of different ways, but even this has surpassed my wildest imagination." ESPN has said that Andrews "rarely covers stories involving shoes, and that if she did, she would disclose her affiliation with Reebok." ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz: "If an instance of inherent conflict arises, we would obviously be transparent with the audience." Krulewitz noted that ESPN reporters and personalities are "permitted to sign endorsement deals on a case-by-case basis." ESPN last year "did not allow a college sports reporter, Jenn Brown, to participate in an ad campaign for Icehouse beer." Krulewitz: "There are times when we’re fine with it, and there are times when we say that doesn’t make sense for reasons X, Y, or Z." Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Dir Tom Rosenstiel noted that "news organizations typically do not permit their reporters to sign endorsement deals, but figures in sports television are an exception." CBS' Jim Nantz appears Sony ads with Colts QB Peyton Manning, "even though Nantz calls games in which Manning plays." Also, retired athletes like Fox' Michael Strahan "continue to endorse products even as they have become sports analysts." Still, Rosenstiel believes that the "Andrews case was different." He said, "She is described as a sideline reporter, and she is not a former athlete sitting in a studio doing personal commentary" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/30).
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