Nike Benches Michael Vick

Nike has temporarily suspended Michael Vick from its roster of product endorsers in light of his indictment stemming from dog-fighting activity on a property he owns. Vick's indictment was a case of very bad timing for Nike as it was about to launch a shoe endorsed by the Atlanta Falcons star QB. Perhaps the timing could have been worse if the indictment came down just after the shoe had been released.

The sticky situation in which Nike finds itself is a reminder of the perils of associating a brand with a person or entity outside the walls of your organization. The rationale for hiring an endorser is to take advantage of the endorser's brand associations with the expectation that his or her associations transfer to the brand. Unfortunately for Nike, the associations transferred can be positive or negative. A "morals clause" can be written into endorsers' contracts to shield companies from situations like the one that Vick's indictment presents for Nike, but there is still a risk that a brand can be damaged or at least embarassed by an endorser's actions.

The exposure and popularity benefits a celebrity endorser can bring to a brand must be weighed against the loss of control the marketer relinquishes by associating with someone beyond its direct control. The consequences are even greater when the relationship between the marketer and endorser go beyond name or likeness association and products or entire product lines are developed around the endorser. Link

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