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Nike dumped disgraced Milwaukee Brewers Ryan Braun, suspended for the remainder of the season for alleged drug violations – the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
In addition to his wearing the swoosh, Nike sold t-shirts emblazoned with “Big Bat Like Braun.” The Nike deal was estimated to be worth nearly $2 million dollars a year, and if you add to that the fact Wilson no longer carries a Braun-model glove and that he doesn’t get a paycheck during his suspension, the financial cost of using PEDs has gone way, way up. For the player and the brands sponsoring them.
Braun isn’t the first athlete to lose his endorsement deal with Nike. They dropped Lance Armstrong in the face of his admission he “juiced” to win his Tour de France titles. So why the big deal about performance enhancing drugs? You’re entertained by the play aren’t you? The athletes play all the harder, don’t they? And if they all do it, doesn’t it just even out? After Tiger Woods’ sex scandal, Nike kept him. They even ran an ad this year featuring Woods that said, “Winning takes care of everything.” So doesn’t it? If it takes care of everything, doesn't it take care of PED-use too?
Actually not. And yes, it is an irony of the major leagues. Cheating on your wife, and cheating on the game just isn’t the same thing. Why? Because cheating on the game is cheating on the fan, and now you’ve gone and made it personal! In Braun’s case, you have to factor in this is the Big Show we’re talking about. Players are supposed to have an authentic skill-set. You know, to be best of the best. Otherwise, all of us could do it, and probably for fewer sponsorship dollars. Just saying.
Everybody, including Major League Baseball, recognizes that it’s a really bad idea to adulterate the game. Sponsors like Nike have always recognized the influence star athletes have on their brands, and the brand is diminished. When revelations of this kind of cheating comes out it raises a question mark in fans’ and sponsors’ minds, if not an asterisk in the record books.
And when it comes to fan and brand engagement, question marks never ever help.