Vick Proves Yet Again That Sports Fans Have Memories Like Goldfish
Well, consider the facts:
- Within a year of his (alleged) incident with the 19-year-old chambermaid, Bryant jerseys were the #1 selling kids' jerseys in the NBA again.
- Phelps' Q-Score, which measures an athlete's endorsement power based on awareness, likeability and ability to motivate a sale, went up by 10 points. (True, Kellogg dropped him, but it was going to do that anyway and was just lucky to escape under cover of smoke from the bong.)
- Vick is widely touted as the front-runner for NFL MVP. His #7 Eagles jerseys are "flying off the shelves" in Philly, according to SportsBusiness Daily, with sales doubling each week he starts.
The truth is, we sports fans have the memories of goldfishes when it comes to star athletes -- as long as they start winning again. Sexual assault? Animal torture? Womanizing? Drug use? Never mind all that, if you win back-to-back NBA titles, Olympic Gold medals or a probable NFL MVP nomination. (Though I must admit I had my doubts with Vick since pets were involved, and you know how people value their pets like family).
Now, of course, Tiger is the exception to this because he has not won anything since his close encounter with the tree on Thanksgiving 2009. And let's be honest, not only has he not won anything, he has been terrible. Hence, his image is still in the doghouse (sorry, Michael) outside of Beaverton, Ore. I would bet my mortgage, however, that if he does start winning again, absolutely nobody will care about with whom he consorted.
Often our advice to clients caught up in these soap operas with their endorsers is simple -- do not panic and stay the course. It's likely all will be forgiven by the fans in a few months or a year. Just stay quiet for a few months. Do not run ads with the athlete until the issue fades from the front and back pages. If you have a morals clause in the contract, exercise it to get a big cut in the fee, but do not just cut and run. Fans will continue to associate you with the athlete for years anyway if you have been with him a long time, so by the time everyone has forgotten Accenture sponsored Tiger, he will be worth sponsoring again.
Now, this is a far-from-popular view. Nobody in the media wants to interview me when these falls from grace occur because it is not dramatic enough to say, "Nobody will care in a year," even if it is almost always true. They want the doom and gloom and the career-is-over angle, and who cares if it is really true?
So what advice would I give to Tiger to resurrect his career and join the ranks of the commercially rehabilitated? In the immortal words of Al Davis, "Just win, baby!"