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Volume 26 No. 107
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The Bryant File: Nutella Spread Ends Relationship With Kobe

Amid Sexual Assault Charges, Nutella
Ends Relationship With Kobe Bryant

Nutella "is ending its sweet deal with" Lakers G Kobe Bryant, as the hazelnut spread "has discontinued all Bryant-related promotions five months before his contract is set to expire," according to Suzanne Kapner of the N.Y. POST, who notes Nutella paid Bryant an estimated $500,000 annually. Nutella spokesperson Julie Hurbanis said that the decision "was unrelated to Bryant's legal troubles and was made months ago, as part of a broader plan to target an older audience." McDonald's spokesperson Bill Whitman said of the company's relationship with Bryant: "We haven't made any adjustments to our plans because of his legal situation" (N.Y. POST, 8/4). Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who has established a Web site for the "disenfranchised fan" — LeagueOfFans.org, said of athlete endorsements: "Companies are marketing emotion; they're marketing hero-worship, and they're not marketing the product. They're latching all those emotional intangibles onto the product, almost as packaging and camouflage. The product is wrapped around Kobe Bryant. You're buying the psychology, not the product" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/3).

SURVEY SAYS: A July 23-29 ESPN Sports Poll commissioned by sister publication SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL found that 61% of about 500 adults ages 18-and-older polled were "neither more nor less likely to buy a product endorsed" by Bryant because of his legal problems. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4%. Pistons COO and Assistant GM Alan Ostfield said, "People watch the NBA because it is great entertainment, and [the Bryant case] doesn't change that, though obviously it's not what the NBA wants. ... But it doesn't surprise me that the numbers don't show any great impact to the NBA." Celtics Exec VP/Marketing John Brody added, "I haven't got a single question about [Bryant's situation], and I'm out there selling the NBA every day" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/4 issue). Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban wrote in an e-mail: "There isn't a CEO of a large company who wouldn't trade places with the NBA in a heartbeat. To have a work population of mostly young, 20-something men, and have less than 2[%] of them have legal issues in a given year, and to have them also uniformly admit any problems and be open to seeking help and counseling, would be a dream come true" (AP, 8/3). But Sonics Owner Howard Schultz said of the situation: "I think it would be wrong to sit here and hide behind the fact that there are serious questions. I don't want to overstate it, but the fact is the health of professional sports and sports in general, with regard to reputation and responsibility, is a very important social question that has to be addressed. And thinking about it as business-as-usual is wrong" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/3).

NOTES: Meanwhile, Bryant "put in a surprise appearance at Saturday's Teen Choice Awards at Universal City with his wife Vanessa." The show will air Wednesday, "the same day Bryant is to appear in" CO for his preliminary hearing (L.A. TIMES, 8/3)....Friday's edition of NBC's "Tonight Show" aired a parody of a Nike commercial featuring a Bryant look-alike. NBC's Jay Leno: "Nike has changed their slogan. ... With all that's been happening lately, apparently the folks at Nike have made a subtle change in their advertising campaign." The show aired an ad with the slogan, "Just Don't Do it" ("The Tonight Show," NBC, 8/1).