SBD/December 13, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Braun's Abiltiy To Gain New Sponsorship Deals On Hold After Positive Drug Test

AirTran had no comment on Braun's situation, but said it is monitoring the case
Brewers LF Ryan Braun's ability to "gain new deals and endorsements was expected to increase markedly" after winning the NL MVP Award last month, but that is "on hold now after word leaked out that Braun had tested positive in a drug test," according to Don Walker of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. GMR Marketing VP & Group Account Dir Steve Dupee said that Braun's management team at CAA had been "out presenting Braun to potential clients" prior to the positive test. Dupee: "The timing is unfortunate. If I'm his guy at CAA, I'm not picking up any new deals." AirTran and Nike are both among companies that currently sponsor Braun. An AirTran official said that the company "would have no comment on Braun's situation, but said they were monitoring the case." Nike "did not return a call requesting comment." Braun has had a "relationship with Cytosport, which makes Muscle Milk, a protein supplement." However, Braun's name is "no longer on the company's website." Limelite Fusion Drink President T.J. Utschig, whose company Braun has an equity position in, said yesterday that he "stood by Braun." Utschig: "Anyone who spends five minutes with Ryan knows he's a purist. He doesn't cheat. We stand by him and support him 1,000%" (JSONLINE.com, 12/12). Sporting News' Anthony Witrado said, "This is something that is going to change the face of his career. He’s been seen as a very likeable guy, a very marketable player for the Brewers and Major League Baseball and if this happens to be true and this suspensions stands, he’ll never be looked at the same again” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 12/12).

RAINING ON THEIR PARADE: In Toronto, Richard Griffin notes every time MLB "seems set to stage a revival among its most skeptical fans, the ones that swore off the game after the strike of ’94, the muscular shadow of steroids comes along to rain on its parade." The fact that Braun, one of the "biggest stars in baseball, an MVP, a fan icon and one of the commissioner’s personal favourites, is now teetering on the brink of disgrace and infamy, suggests the process does not play favourites which fans were suspicious of" (TORONTO STAR, 12/13). In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote if Braun is proven to have taken steroids, it "shows that the new era is still succumbing to the temptation of the old one." It is a "huge blow to baseball's best efforts." It is an "even bigger blow to the public's trust in those efforts" (LATIMES.com, 12/12). SportsNet N.Y.'s Marc Malusis said, “It's a black eye for the sport. ... They thought this would come to an end as far as cutting down, now you have one of your primetime players going out there trying to gain an advantage and doing so” (“The WheelHouse,” SportsNet N.Y., 12/12). WEEI-AM's Mike Mutnansky said, "Baseball is trying to get free from the steroid era. ... Stringent testing at the minor league and Major League level were supposed to clean up the game. This is a major setback for that clean image” (“NESN Daily,” NESN, 12/12). Author John Feinstein said, “Ryan Braun testing positive is a terrible thing for baseball because he was such a great story -- becomes the MVP, in a terrific baseball town" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 12/12). ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said, “It’s just the worst scenario you can think of for Major League Baseball." She added MLB Commissioner Bud Selig likely is "just sick to his stomach” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 12/12).

DOES HE DESERVE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT? Braun has steadfastly claimed he did not take anything illegal, and MLB.com’s Richard Justice said he is giving Braun the benefit of the doubt. Justice said, “He has to be smart enough to know that what he would risk by a positive test does not come close to what he would lose in terms of reputation. He’s seen a bunch of other players lose their good name, and there’s nothing more valuable that someone has in the world” (“Hot Stove,” MLB Network, 12/12). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, "I want to believe Ryan Braun. I like Ryan Braun. I want to give him every benefit of the doubt. I just don’t know that in this climate in baseball, in that sport, you can extend anyone the benefit of the doubt” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 12/12).
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