SBD/November 30, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Omaha Steaks, Nike Say They Their Deals With Suh Are Business As Usual

Suh reportedly called Goodell over the weekend to apologize for his actions
Lions DT Ndamukong Suh was suspended two games yesterday for his actions during the Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions, and his image as a product endorser continues to be "under fire," according to Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha WORLD-HERALD. An Omaha Steaks spokesperson Monday said that the company is "taking a 'wait and see approach' regarding Suh." An official statement read in part, "We have never known Suh to be mean-spirited and he has always demonstrated integrity in all our dealings with him. We continue to closely monitor and evaluate the situation and we will take action accordingly, if we deem it necessary. For now, it is business as usual." Nike also released a statement Monday saying the Thanksgiving incident has "no impact on our relationship with Ndamukong Suh." Chatelain noted popularity is not "defined by endorsement contracts, but they are a gauge of public opinion." Univ. of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Managing Dir Paul Swangard "expects current sponsors to 'ratchet down' their marketing of Suh in the short term." Swangard: "When they reach the end of their contracts, they'll take a hard look at Suh's popularity." As for potential sponsors, Swangard "suspects any negotiations are 'probably done for now.'" He noted that sometimes a player "makes a mistake on or off the field that doesn't harm his marketing potential." But he said in Suh's case, "There's a body of work here that certainly raises into question whether brands would want to risk their own equity" (Omaha WORLD-HERALD, 11/29). ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said Suh "is a celebrity on a level that defensive linemen very rarely become." Greenberg: "He’s a pitchman in a major way. This doesn’t work for that. This image is a good image to be a rough, tough defensive tackle, but not when you are trying to sell products to all of America” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 11/29). Suh's jersey is ranked 12th in the list of NFL jersey sales from April 1-Nov. 29.
TRYING TO BE THE GOOD GUY: Suh reportedly called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over the weekend to apologize for his actions, and ESPN's Skip Bayless said, "Whoever his people are, they continue to leak this to the media because they're trying to prop him up for the Chrysler ads and the Subway ads because he's become quite a big national pitchman as the good guy, tough guy. But I think he's more tough guy, over-the-edge than he is the good guy off the field" ("First Take," ESPN2, 11/29).

SPLIT PERSONALITIES: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell in a sports section cover story notes it is "striking that Suh's reputation on the field is in such contrast to the image he has developed off the field as a model athlete." People at his alma mater, Univ. of Nebraska, "gush about a principled man committed to giving back." Before signing his first pro contract, Suh "pledged to donate $2.6 million to Nebraska, where he earned an engineering degree in four years." He has also "volunteered at food banks and visited hospitals and, since arriving in Detroit, he has donated toys for kids" (USA TODAY, 11/30).
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